Wisconsin Republicans Attack Women With Multiple Pieces of Legislation

By YeOldeScribe ~ March 17th, 2012 @ 10:29 am

Perhaps it’s a sign we’ve been involved in politics for far too long, but we’re actually not surprised at how little the average person knows about politics. The fact that the vast majority of our country’s citizens could not pass a citizen exam is old news; the fact that a majority of GOP voters in Alabama and Mississippi think President Barack Obama is Muslim doesn’t even phase us anymore.

What really gets us is how passionate people are about topics they know nothing about. This happens on both sides of the aisle, to be sure – Republicans aren’t the only ones who spout out nonsense when they don’t know what to do (although recently, they do seem to be doing it the loudest). For example, how many people who are so upset about “Obamacare” know that the PPACA actually saves the country money while providing citizens of the US with the healthcare they need to survive? How many people who supported state union workers paying more for their pensions would do so if they knew that not a taxpayer dime was spent on those pensions? How many people would support Gov. Walker if they knew how much time he spent working vs. campaigning? (No link for this, only because we’re going to do a post on the topic shortly – and we don’t want to spoil it for for you. Hint: One is much higher than the other.)

But we digress. What’s confusing to us right now is how Wisconsin Republicans are getting away with declaring open war on Women’s rights – and still have so many female supporters. In the last month, four distinct pieces of legislation have affected Women’s rights. We’re going to take a look at all three, starting with the oldest.

Back in the 2000’s, the Wisconsin legislature finally noticed that there was a growing disparity in pay for men and women who were doing the same job. At the time as a state, we ranked 36 out of 50 states in that category. As a state that prides itself on progressivism and equality, it was a problem that needed to be addressed – and it was. The Equal Pay Enforcement Act of 2009 mandated that men and women should receive the same pay – but more than that, it provided an avenue for workers who felt they were being discriminated against. Instead of having to go to a federal court to plead their case, victims could use the state circuit system instead. The difference is huge – it is incredibly expensive, super-exclusive and a very lengthy process to have a case heard at a Federal level. It’s much more economically feasible for someone – especially a person who isn’t receiving correct compensation for their services – for that person to argue their case at the state level. The bill also ups the penalties for employers who are caught discriminating.

And with the passage of Republican-led bill SB 202, all that goes away. The Republicans voted to remove the enforcement part of the bill in a party-line vote. Those same Republicans were very quick to point out (once this story started to gather traction) that they weren’t repealing the bill, they were just removing the ‘enforcement’ section of it.

That’s like the equivalent of Democrats saying “We’re not against using the electric chair to carry out the death sentence – we’re just advocating removing the electricity from the equation.”

The 2009 bill was called the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. When you take away the enforcement part of the bill, it becomes the Equal Pay Suggestion Act – which would really keep guilty employers in line. SB 202 takes away the teeth of the bill; it removes any chance that the bill could actually do what it was supposed to do.

The kicker here is that the legislation was working. Remember how we said that Wisconsin used to be ranked 36th in the nation when it came to equal pay for the same jobs between the sexes? In just two years after the law was passed, we moved up to 24th place. In two years, our state jumped 12 spots in national rankings – and now Republicans effectively repealed one of the pieces of legislation that got us there.

Real smooth, guys. (But even smoother, gals. Remember, there are 11 female Republican members of the Wisconsin legislature, and almost all of the measures discussed in this post were passed on party-line votes.)

So not only do you have fewer rights as a woman in Wisconsin, but if you choose to raise a child in this state on your own, you’re contributing to child abuse and neglect – or so says Wisconsin Republicans. The measure was introduced specifically by Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend, who is the Assistant Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate (so he’s not a powerful guy or anything). Before we get into exactly what Sen. Grothman had to say about Women and their audacity to have children out of wedlock, let’s take a look at some of his other award-winning quotes this year:

  • Said of the protesters: “They’re loud, they’ll give you the finger, and they yell at you, but I really think deep down inside they’re just mostly college kids having fun, just like they’re having fun sleeping with their girlfriends on air mattresses. That’s the guts of that crowd.”
  • Described the protestors as “a different breed of person” and “a bunch of slobs taking up the building.”
  • He did not “find it impressive” that over 70,000 protesters marched on the capitol.
  • Says that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day should not be a Federal holiday, calling it “an insult to all the other taxpayers around the state”
  • Has said that we should “treat Kwanzaa with the contempt it deserves before it becomes a permanent part of our culture.”

So now that you know a little bit about the man (who is ironically the only Republican Wisconsin Senator with a law degree), let’s take a look at the little piece of legislation he tried to pass recently. SB 507 (We felt we should link to the actual bill in case people didn’t believe us that this shit was real) would list being a single parent as a contributing factor in child abuse and neglect. The bill would require educational and public awareness campaigns to be held, promoting the dangers of having children out of wedlock, and to show how important fathers are in maintaining a healthy family. The bill, said Grothman, would show  “the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.”

Yeah, because most of the reported cases of domestic violence and child abuse come from women. Especially single mothers.

Grothman has previously written in one of his many essays that the “left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government.” If you want to read some seriously scary work, check out Sen. Grothman’s propaganda pamphlet. (Note: PDF)

Look, we can’t even begin to describe how far off Sen. Grothman is here. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying that he’s just advocating that nuclear families tend to do better in the long run over families with single parents, he’s still so far out in left right field that he’s not even in the stadium’s parking lot. We at Political Progressives know a lot of families that are single-parent led, and we know a lot of people who are very successful and the result of single parenting. You probably do to – one in three families in Wisconsin is led by a single parent. If anything, these parents deserve to be commended for doing everything they can to make things work for their families. We would venture to say that single parents are even more dedicated to their families success because they know the burden is entirely on them for their children to succeed, and they want their children to have a better life than they did.

We’re not saying that there’s anything wrong with the typical nuclear family, nor are we denying that there’s not statistical benefits to having one. But to argue that being a single parent is a contributing factor to neglect and child abuse? Get real. The data simply isn’t there. Are single mothers more dependent on the government and outside sources of assistance to survive? Of course. Does that mean they’re neglecting or abusing their children? Of course not. We are sick and tired of the Republican mindset that everyone on welfare is lazy and unwilling to work. That just because you’re on welfare, there’s something wrong with you, and you’re an outcast of society. Some of the most successful people we know at Political Progressives have at some point been dependent on the government – whether their families used welfare programs when they were young, whether they accepted loans from the federal government as a college student, or whether they needed some unemployment benefits between layoffs. Being on welfare should not be a black mark on your record. And being a single parent a) doesn’t mean you’ll always be on welfare and b) doesn’t mean you neglect or abuse your children. Shame on Sen. Grothman and his Republican cronies for even thinking that. This piece of legislation is disgusting hatred and so misinformed it borders on insanity that it’s even being thought of (much less debated) in our State’s Capitol.

But our legislators weren’t done trampling over women’s rights just yet – although this one isn’t as bad as some people are making it out to be. This Wednesday, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill which did two major things: First, this bill does limit abortion coverage – but not quite in the way you’d think. According to the Journal-Sentinel:

“The bill would limit coverage of abortion to cases in which a doctor found it was needed to save the woman’s life or prevent serious harm to her health, or to cases of sexual assault or incest that had been reported to police.”

The other abortion-related bill came today as our legislature ruled that doctors had to be present to administer abortion-inducing drugs (instead of just supervising by webcam). This piece of legislation is also home to our quote of the week, courtesy of Rep. Michelle Litjens of Oshkosh:

“This is not stopping abortions – this is protecting a woman from an abortion she does not want to have.”

As laughable as the 2nd part of her quote is, Rep. Litjens is actually spot on with the first part. The Thursday piece of legislation doesn’t mean that any woman who seeks an abortion would be turned away. We at Political Progressives feel that liberal Democrats might be making more out of this than they should. While there are probably serious enforcement questions (the part about how “Physicians could face a felony for ignoring the new rules” is particularly interesting to us), we don’t see a problem here. No matter what your stance on the issue is, we think everyone can agree that having an abortion is a very serious (and literally life-changing) experience. If a doctor is administering drugs to terminate the life of a fetus/baby, then yes, that doctor should probably make sure that the person in question has thought this decision through.

As for the Wednesday piece of legislation… the question we have is about the constitutionality of the bill. Does the Assembly bill pass Roe v. Wade? It probably does – the bill does nothing to say that having an abortion is illegal; it just says if you’re using it as a form of birth control, you need to pay for it out of pocket. And that is a key distinction we need to point out – Pro-Choice people like to come up with a lot of what-if scenarios for why abortion is necessary. This legislation does nothing to some of the more common ones proposed – a woman could still receive funding for an abortion if her health/life were in danger, or if she was raped/sexually assaulted, or the victim of incest. This bill is strictly cutting off funding for abortion as a form of birth control.

Of the four pieces of legislation passed, the two that have tie-ins to abortion are actually the weakest attacks on Women’s rights, once you move beyond the headlines and read what the bills actually do. Abortion is a very hot topic issue, and astute readers can probably gather how the staff at Political Progressives feels about this issue by reading between the lines on this post. We’ll close the abortion section by saying this: hot button issues are sure to flare-up emotions in people, but it’s important to look at the facts and look at situations objectively. We feel that if people are willing to do so in this instance, they’d be able to see that as it relates to abortion, these two pieces of legislation are small potatoes compared to what else the Republicans have cooking.

But that doesn’t mean that the legislation is without fault. As we’ve already pointed out, we have some serious questions even with the abortion section of Wednesday’s bill. However, the bigger issue here is on the abstinence-only sex education portion of the legislation. According to the Huffington Post:

“The Wisconsin State Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill that will limit abortion coverage, as well as a measure imposing abstinence-only sex education in schools… Under the bill, sexual education courses also would have to discuss parental responsibility and the socioeconomic benefits of marriage, as well as explain pregnancy, prenatal development and childbirth.”

Giving Rep. Litjens a run for her money with quote of the week was Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac, who said, “The measure gives schools more freedom over their sex education instruction.”

So let’s get this straight: mandating a hyper-conservative social agenda be taught to our children in a public school setting and eliminating their right not to participate in sex ed programs is giving our schools more options? That really doesn’t sound like more to us. In fact, it sounds like fewer options.

To top it all off, there is little evidence that supports abstinence-only sexual education works. Now, we at Political Progressives firmly believe that abstinence does have a place to play in sexual education – in fact, it should play a prominent role, probably even a starring one. However, we also believe that it is not the only answer. It’s simply not practical to expect our nation’s teenagers who are programmed with TV shows that are hyper-sexualized and bombarded with sex-sells based advertising 24/7 to believe that with a couple of one-hour school classes, they’ll be able to keep it in the pants.

The evidence backs us up, too. According to the Journal-Sentinel article we linked to earlier, when abstinence is taught side by side, the birth rates drop (when contrasted to abstinence-only education). From the J-S:

“Opponents of the bill noted Milwaukee’s teen birthrate dropped after the city and the United Way of Greater Milwaukee launched a program in 2008 that teaches young people about both abstinence and contraception. The city’s birthrate dropped from 52 per 1,000 teens in 2006 to 35.7 per 1,000 in 2010.”

While the link to Women’s rights here is tenuous, it’s still there. And this legislation is bad news for our teens and Women’s rights on that front.

Make no mistake about it, Wisconsin Republicans declared open season on Women’s rights over the last month. The fact that so much was done in so short a time is particularly staggering to us. Just as state union workers were stripped of their rights almost overnight, so to have women been disenfranchised by the politicians who swore to protect them. It’s no surprise that these bills were/will be mostly passed on party-line votes, and that Republicans were/will be able to essentially jackhammer them through despite fierce opposition.

You don’t have to be female to be outraged over what’s happening – our writer is male and he’s plenty upset. But the bigger issue here is how many women will still support Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican thugs after this is all said and done. The very body that has stripped their rights away on several occasions and will continue to do so is the same party they will support with unwavering fervor.

If this doesn’t get you to stop supporting the radicalism that’s being proposed by Wisconsin Republicans, what will?

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