Women’s Health and the GOP

by Michael Potemra

A new web ad in Virginia shows how conservatives can make a credible and effective claim to be representing women’s interests. It is by now a cliché to observe that “women’s health” is a liberal code phrase that really refers to an abortion-centric political outlook. But the fact that this is a frequently used talking point does not mean that it is false, and the issue of health-safety regulations in abortion clinics makes this abundantly clear. I can readily imagine how the pro-choice women of the 1970s who taught me about life — family members, friends, teachers, etc. — would have reacted if I had said there should be lower standards for the cleanliness of abortion clinics than for other medical facilities. Typical of the misogynist-male worldview! they would have said. The idea that just because it’s a clinic for women, it’s okay to turn it into an unsafe, substandard ghetto! If men’s clinics were this unsafe, they’d turn clinic cleanliness into a sacrament!

But now, it’s ostensibly “pro-women’s-health” politicians who oppose the health regs. Why? Because other agendas and interest groups are more important.

This particular ad targets Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe on this issue. It may be too late by now to save the campaign of Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who is in deep political trouble for a variety of reasons; but the issues the ad raises, and the approach it takes, do not stand or fall with the political fortunes of the GOP candidate in one particular off-year governor’s race. In close races, next year and beyond, voters should be asked what they think “women’s  health” means — and if they think the answer is “more than just increased access to abortion,” they will have a pretty clear choice to make.

(Thank you to Cheryl Felicia Rhoads, who did the voiceover for the ad, for bringing it to my attention.)

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