OPINION | Mother’s Day and the War Against Women

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Mother’s Day seems like the time to talk about the anti-woman legislation proposed, passed and thankfully vetoed by Governor Dayton at the Minnesota Legislature.

You may have heard about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. The corporations write up model laws and the legislative members dutifully go back to their state Capitols and pass them. But have you heard of the AUL, American United for Life? They also draft “model legislation” but their goal is to make abortion impossible or near impossible at the state level. They attempt to look very official and reasonable but, in reality, they want to “use our uteruses without our permission!”

Here are some examples. The “Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety bill,” requires clinics that perform ten or more first trimester abortions to be licensed as an “ambulatory surgical clinic” — even though all the medical personnel at the clinic are already licensed. Costs would go up, requiring fees, unnecessary services and clinic features. This could result in shutting down abortion providers—their goal. Representative Phyllis Kahn offered an amendment on the house floor that would require licensing of sperm banks and clinics that perform vasectomies as well. The Republican-controlled House rejected that amendment and Democratic Governor Mark Dayton Vetoed that bill.

Another example: “The Abortion Inducing Drug Safety Act” — aimed to prevent Planned Parenthood from using video counseling for women in rural areas who cannot travel to obtain an abortion and opt to use RU-486. This bill would require the drug to be administered in the presence of a physician and would require repeat visits. One of my sister colleagues commented that maybe a doctor should be present during the administration of Viagra and for several hours after to determine safety — since one is more likely to die from childbirth or from Viagra or taking Tylenol than from a medically induced abortion.

In Congress, there were efforts to exempt any employers from providing health insurance that covers birth control. Last year, the House attempted to de-fund family planning services.

There are also other economic ways women have suffered throughout the great recession. Funding for child care programs has been cut, as has funding for early education programs. This year, House Republicans passed a budget that makes drastic cuts to programs that women disproportionately use. These include Medicare and Medicaid as well as child care, Head Start, job training, Pell Grants, and housing and energy assistance.

Much of this war has been waged under the cover of “fiscal responsibility.” To justify these budget cuts, we have been told that we must tighten our belts or share sacrifices as we get our nation’s finances back in order. That’s why I want to talk about the other wars we’ve been waging for over a decade now. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have cost over $1 trillion by the end of this fiscal year. And the toll taken on the lives of those who have fought in these wars or lost their lives in the fighting is incalculable.

In addition, Pentagon spending continues to grow. Each year, Congress appropriates more than half of discretionary spending to the Department of Defense, wars and nuclear weapons spending. Even without deficit reduction pressure, this overspending takes dollars away from needed domestic priorities that strengthen our economy and ensure that America can compete in the world marketplace. As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey put it, “It makes no sense at all for us as a nation to have an extraordinary capable military instrument of power if we are economically disadvantaged around the world.”

We badly need to focus our resources on things that will make us secure here at home, like better access to healthcare, stronger schools, and a safe environment. The President was on the right track when he suggested during the State of the Union that we can “take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

I believe the right way to honor motherhood is to give women the support and opportunities needed to be good mothers. This means investing in child care assistance programs, improving education for all of our children, and strengthening the safety net that ensures mothers and children don’t fall through the cracks. It’s not responsible to destroy those programs under the guise of fiscal responsibility even as we pour billions into fighting wars abroad. Let’s invest here at home.