Alice, this is not Wonderland

Published 4:54 pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

— “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There” by Lewis Carroll

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I kept thinking about this conversation between the White Queen and Alice as I watched one Republican spokesperson after another deny that their party has launched a “war on women.” Some partisan strategist apparently decided the best way to make a truth go away is to ask the public to believe the impossible — that it doesn’t exist.


In full disclosure, I too am a partisan. But I also recognize that facts matter, and that we can’t discuss policy if we put words through the looking glass to distort the facts. And all across America, GOP lawmakers have introduced legislation designed to restrict women’s access to a full range of reproductive health care services. They even want to eliminate funding for Title X, our nation’s family planning program, which was introduced by Richard Nixon.

Redefining women’s rights so that they aren’t, and finding pretzeled explanations to justify enforcing economic inequality — I call this Humpty-Dumptying the debate. Republicans’ denial of a pattern of behavior — namely, their concerted effort to return women to a pre-World War I status — is asking us to believe the impossible.

A new report by People for the American Way concludes, “Anti-woman proposals that have been percolating in the right-wing fringe for years — such as ‘personhood’ measures — are suddenly supported by mainstream presidential candidates. Rights that women have come to take for granted — like the right to access birth control — have suddenly come under attack for the first time in decades.”

Let me highlight just a few of the greatest attacks on women’s access to reproductive health care and preventative medicines, as presented in that report:

— Republicans in Congress have voiced strong opposition to extending the Violence Against Women Act. In one instance, they want to strip a provision giving Indian tribes new authority to enforce domestic violence laws. Some Republican leaders, now worried about the gender gap among voters, are modifying their opposition. They will still attempt to pass a watered-down version.

In response, Vice President Joe Biden, one of the original champions of the act, said: “Imagine now the message it sends if (the law is) not reauthorized. Just ask yourself, what message would be sent to every one of our daughters, every one imprisoned in her own home?”

— Many Republicans want to repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Federal Fair Pay Act. Signing it was Obama’s first act in office. Still, despite progress, women today are paid 77 cents on the dollar — a man’s dollar. If the pay were equal, it would buy eight months’ worth of groceries.

— In 2009, Wisconsin ranked 36th in wage parity. But the state’s Equal Pay Protection law for women — same job, same pay — allows women to sue businesses. So Republican Gov. Scott Walker got the Republican legislature to repeal the law, using the pretzel defense that lawyers were using the equal pay law to “clog up the legal system.”

— Republicans in Virginia passed a vile law mandating that a woman seeking an abortion must have an invasive vaginal ultrasound exam, although it serves no medical purpose. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said he’d sign it, then said he’d oppose it, but signed it March 7. — In Pennsylvania, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett offered up some advice for women who don’t want to have a mandatory ultrasound before they terminate their pregnancy: Don’t look at it. “I don’t know how you make anybody watch,” Corbett said. “You just have to close your eyes.”

— The Texas Women’s Health Program provides affordable health care to about 130,000 low-income women. Republican Gov. Rick Perry made access difficult, if not impossible, by banning Planned Parenthood from being a provider. That action required the federal government to cut off federal Medicaid funds, because states can’t ban providers. Since abortion providers do not receive federal or state funds, Perry’s ban of Planned Parenthood, in effect, only banned poor women from receiving affordable health care.

— Govs. Walker, McDonnell, Corbett and Perry are five-star generals in the Republican war on women. Perhaps we can add others, such as the governors of Ohio, Arizona and Mississippi. The list goes on and on.

— Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, press secretary and chief propagandist for the Republican war on women, verbally abused Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke, calling her, among other niceties, a “slut” for wanting insurance companies to cover birth control when prescribed for certain medical conditions. Most leading Republicans refused to condemn Limbaugh. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said that Limbaugh’s language “is not the language I would have used” — implying that only the wording was impolitic, not the idea.

Will voters consider all this part of an attack on women’s rights — an assault that allows government intrusion into your private life decisions? We will soon find out.

But we women deserve to have control over the critical decisions affecting our own health, and we intend to keep it that way.

(Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist and a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News.)