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Jane Ahlin, Published February 02 2014

Ahlin: Huckabee is in lockstep with GOP view of women

No surprise that the Republicans chose a female legislator, House member Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, to deliver the official rebuttal to President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech. The need to appear female-friendly is front and center among Republican priorities this election year – especially after one of their religious media favorites refocused America on the party’s attitude toward women in a most unfortunate way.

Speaking at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, TV talk show host, presidential wannabe, and former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee said, “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them (...) a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let’s take that discussion all across America.”

Goodness, that discussion “all across America” probably happened more quickly than he expected and didn’t go the way he wanted. Still, minus the vitriolic sound of “Uncle Sugar” and “cannot control their libido or their reproductive system,” he was in lockstep with the social conservatism of today’s Republican party. In fact, later in his remarks, he put the same idea in terms more palatable to the RNC as a campaign message when he said, “Republicans don’t have a war on women. We’re having a war for women to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.”

The problem with that message the rightwing base of the Republican party likes is that the vast majority of women don’t think we are “victims of [our] gender” or, for that matter, victims of our “libidos” or “reproductive system(s).” Republican and Democratic women are pretty doggoned happy being female (we love our libidos and reproductive systems). In the realm of health insurance, however, the point where we differ with Huckabee’s assessment is in our attitude towards birth control. He views birth control as an assault on the purity and independence of Christian women; we see it as basic health care (and a whole lot of us are Christian).

Indeed, 99 percent of women in America use birth control during their reproductive years, which makes the undercurrent of the Republican message particularly puzzling. The message seems to be that women who think contraception should be covered by insurance the same way all other basic health care needs are covered – vaccines to Viagra – are weak-willed, pathetic women who can’t take care of themselves. It’s an interesting emphasis for the Republican Party, this notion that “real” women don’t need birth control. In the party’s perverse magical thinking, birth control is the gateway to abortion, instead of what it really is, the most reliable way to prevent unplanned pregnancy.

In her rebuttal to the speech, McMorris-Rodgers gave the party line about not letting government interfere in our health care decisions. Not too many women took that bit seriously. Yes, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted about 40 times to rescind Obamacare. But acting more like a religious council than the deliberating body of a free society, the members also have sought to interfere in the most private and intimate areas of women’s health care, the most recent vote taken the morning after McMorris-Rodgers’ speech to the nation.

The RNC might not like it, but Huckabee’s remarks well-represent the party.

Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum. Email janeahlin@yahoo.com