Op-Eds By Republican Women Fail To Acknowledge Anti-Choice Republican Primary Electorate

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Two Republican women published op-eds in major Texas newspapers recently in which they emphasized their opposition to HB 2.

One of the op-eds was written by Rep. Sarah Davis, HD-134, who was the lone Republican in either chamber to vote against HB 2. She also offered amendments to the 20-week ban that would have excepted rape and incest victims and provided accommodations for the health of the mother.

The other, by FOX Sports writer Jennifer Floyd Engel, argues that Republicans must fund education and services for the poor women who are considering making the choice of ending a pregnancy.

Unfortunately Sarah Davis's colleagues sided with an extreme Republican primary electorate over rape and incest victims — and they've certainly shown little regard for providing education or healthcare for poor Texans.

It's all empty rhetoric, however, when it's time to go to the ballot box. Until Republicans — particularly Republican women — make it electorally untenable to advance such pernicious anti-woman paternalism at the Legislature, then it's only going to continue.

Read more below the jump.  Jennifer Floyd Engel, a national sports columnist for FOX Sports, wrote an op-ed that ran in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about how Republicans needed to give poor women a chance at a good life for their children if they were to force women to bear them.

She writes:

What Wendy Davis was standing for, and why I stand with her, is choice for the woman who feels she has no choice, who feels like choosing life is setting herself up for a life of food stamps and poor schools and very little in the way of help from the very people who insisted she give birth.

I may not agree with her choice – actually. I certainly do not – but I am not in her shoes and I am not facing a lifetime of dealing with a choice made for me by others.

Tell me another sphere of society where we'd tolerate being told by government what we have to do with our bodies, our lives, our futures.

So here is the deal: The Republicans either need to start supporting the babies they would force to be born with better schools, affordable childcare, more job opportunities, a chance for a chance as well as supporting their mothers. Or they had better stop making choices for others.

So, in short, this Republican woman thinks her party needs to get real about funding education, providing healthcare opportunities, and giving the babies born under this draconian anti-woman policy their own shot at the so-called “Texas Miracle.”

Perhaps Floyd Engel missed the $5.4 billion in cuts to public education in 2011 (of which $3.9B was restored in 2013 due to Democrats' ability to negotiate around water infrastructure funding). Or she missed Perry's refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion, which would give these women and their children healthcare. Or she missed national Republicans trying to slash food stamp benefits for 171,000 needy Texans.

I could go on all day.

Meanwhile, Rep. Sarah Davis takes a different tack, arguing to her fellow Republicans why this bill is, at its core, anti-Republican. Key excerpts:

The issue of abortion will never be settled in the halls of Congress or the state Legislature. It can be decided only among the hearts of men and women, and I believe that as a political party, Republicans should not try to dictate to millions of women a decision that is so personal in nature. …

Many Republicans, including me, have consistently opposed Obamacare because of its intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship. Yet, the omnibus abortion legislation is precisely the same thing: the government sticking its reach into the doctor's office. …

I cannot support government dictating to us where and how we obtain health care, or how much of our income the government thinks is fair to confiscate and redistribute to others. And I cannot support government dictating how responsible women deal with the very personal issue of forced, unhealthy or unwanted pregnancies prior to viability.

Sarah Davis has the electoral luxury of promoting her viewpoints and trying to make the case that not all Republicans are crazy women-haters trying to get the ladies of Texas barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

Sarah Davis represents a true swing district in Houston that is home to high-earning, highly educated Texans. She avoided a primary challenge in 2012, and it's likely that if she fields one this time, any Tea Party nut-job who ousted her on a far-right platform would fall in the general election. So, if Republicans want to keep that seat, they have to tolerate Davis's heterodoxy on women's issues. (She also co-authored the Texas Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that was vetoed by Rick Perry.)

I give her credit for standing up to her party, even if she does so with little fear of electoral reprisal in the Republican primary. But there are few swing districts in this state, and few in which Republicans can break with such a key tenet of their party platform and expect to survive.

In fact, Sarah Davis admitted as much in a Tribune Live event back in January on women's health, when she argued that most Republicans live in fear of primary challeges from the right and thus may not be vocal or public in their support for women's health, even basic family planning services. But as with so many of the issues that drive the Republican base — minority disenfranchisement through photo voter ID, slashing funding for basic civilization, putting more guns in schools — the sane policy position is hardly the one that prevails in their primary elections.

Both of these Republican women fail to acknowledge that their current primary electorate gives preference to women-hating anti-choice conservatives who want to take Texas women back to the 1950's.

Floyd Engel wants Republicans to fund education and provide opportunity for the poor. All recent legislative history in Texas and in Congress suggests that she's in the wrong party. Davis posits herself as the public face of not-so-anti-choice Republicans, yet will likely be shielded from a primary challenge that makes such a stance impossible for the small number of her colleagues who share that view.

Sarah Davis needs to come to terms with the fact that her party seems more comfortable with women like Jodie Laubenberg speaking as the voice of Republican women when it comes to reproductive health — and all of the rape kit theorization that comes with her — than Davis.

Really, Republican women, if what you want from your party is a slate of candidates who are pro-women and focused on jobs and the economy, you'd do well to vote Democratic in the general election and rid your side of the aisle of as many woman-haters as possible.

Until Republicans — particularly Republican women — make it electorally untenable to advance such pernicious anti-woman paternalism at the Legislature, then it's only going to continue.

So y'all can either go clean out your own house… or realize that maybe,  actually, you might be more comfortable in ours.  

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About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women’s basketball and breakfast tacos.

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