Rush Limbaugh reopened a debate about how women can maintain ownership of their own bodies. Now the co-chairs of Washington Women for Choice want this state's gubernatorial candidates to make clear their beliefs about women's reproductive health.
It’s 2012, and the battle for control of the American uterus rages on.
Two weeks ago, a House committee held a hearing on a bill that, if it had passed, would have allowed employers to avoid providing insurance coverage for contraception for religious reasons.
There wasn’t a single woman at the committee table. No one who had carried a child, taken the pill, missed a period or struggled with whether to have an abortion.
So House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hosted an unofficial hearing and invited Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke to testify about how contraception is not covered on the Jesuit campus, and can cost a woman as much as $3,000 during law school. As a result, many go without.
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You probably know what happened next: Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” for wanting other people to pay for her to have sex. “Roundheeled,” he called her, and then suggested she make a sex tape.
Limbaugh apologized to Fluke over the weekend, and had lost 11 key advertisers as of Monday. (There is a God.)
But his hot air reignited a new national debate about how women can maintain ownership of, and responsibility for, their own bodies.
The co-chairs of Washington Women for Choice (WWFC) want to be clear on how our state’s two gubernatorial candidates feel about women’s reproductive health before we get too far into this election.
They’ve posted an open letter on Facebook to U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, asking them to commit “to fighting against attempts to restrict or limit access to contraceptives and abortion here in Washington state.”
Women are invited to go to Facebook and “like” the page. (You’ll find a link from this column on seattletimes.com).
WWFC co-chairs Monica Harrington and Valerie Tarico will then add the names to the letter, which will be forwarded to the candidates. They hope to sponsor a town-hall-style meeting focused on reproductive freedoms.
“We need to have that open discussion before the election,” Harrington said. “Not after we’re living with the consequences. It’s unfair for the voters to not know.”
The WWFC letter also asks that the candidates endorse HB 2330, called the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require all health-insurance plans under the state’s jurisdiction to include abortion coverage.
The bill is groundbreaking in that it would formally make abortion as much a part of women’s health coverage as maternity care, which Washington insurers are mandated to provide.
Inslee already has pledged to support the bill and has regularly posted on Facebook comments like: “It is beyond reason that women are still forced to battle for something as basic as contraception in the year 2012.”
But McKenna has not commented. I tried to reach him, but he’s in Washington, D.C., for the National Association of Attorneys General meeting and wasn’t available for comment.
But when questioned about abortion during a January interview with Q13’s (KCPQ-TV) C.R. Douglas, McKenna said that he believes “life begins at conception, and I would hope every woman would have a chance to choose to carry the baby to term. … However, it’s her choice and it should remain her choice.”
He also said that abortion is an issue that “voters have repeatedly decided and reaffirmed. And it’s the right law. So within those boundaries that the law establishes, the woman has a right to choose.”
It’s the “within those boundaries” part that spooks WWFC co-chair Valerie Tarico.
“Those parameters are everything,” she said. “And the strategy from the right has been to keep redefining those parameters in ways that limit a woman’s reproductive freedoms.”
There was a time when I would have thought Tarico was overreacting. But not anymore.
Women are fighting not only to keep abortion safe and legal, but for access to the contraception that would prevent the unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions.
Is that logic too much for some people? Am I talking too fast? Or is it that I’m a woman?
Don’t answer that.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.
It’s different for girls.