By Sandra Fluke
Since Rep. Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate, I’ve sent out tweets noting that by picking Ryan, Romney has doubled down on his dangerous stance on women’s health. I included links to articles describing Ryan’s abysmal record on the issue.
This being Twitter, supporters of Romney and Ryan responded. But rather than defend Ryan’s record, they instead accusing me of making it up. This reaction of disbelief continued even after the spread of an internet meme and campaign trail pranks began drawing attention to Ryan’s positions.
Maybe that’s not surprising: Ryan’s record on women’s issues is so far outside the mainstream that many find it unbelievable. Here are just a few of the anti-women votes Ryan has cast:
• Ryan voted for a bill referred to as the “Let Women Die Bill” because it proposed to allow hospitals to refuse a woman emergency abortion care, even if her life was in immediate danger. Currently, a federally funded hospital is required to provide at least enough care for a patient to be stabilized so that she doesn’t die and can be transferred to another hospital. The bill Ryan voted for meant that hospitals wouldn’t even have had to do that.
• Ryan co-sponsored a federal personhood bill. That bill declared a fertilized egg that hasn’t even resulted in a pregnancy to be the equivalent of a living person, with all of the rights of federal law. As a result, aspects of in vitro fertilization procedures and some forms of contraception would be criminalized, as would operations to save a woman’s life in the case of dangerous ectopic pregnancies that cannot be carried to term.
• Ryan repeatedly over several years voted against bills to ensure women equal pay for equal work, even voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
• Ryan voted to cut off Title X family planning programs that ensure impoverished and low-wage women affordable access to contraception as well as mammograms and cancer-screenings.
• Ryan’s budget attacks on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and a broad range of social services (including child care, Head Start, job training, Pell Grants, housing and energy assistance) would disproportionately harm women’s economic wellbeing. That’s because the majority of beneficiaries of these programs are women, due to their longer life spans and greater likelihood of being impoverished.
• Ryan repeatedly voted over several years to end all funding for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services. Like Susan G. Komen’s defunding, voting to cut off funding of Planned Parenthood would rob women of access to breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, and the other life-saving services Planned Parenthood provides. By law, federal funding of Planned Parenthood already excludes all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger.
• Ryan co-sponsored a bill that would deny many rape victims on Medicaid access to abortion. That bill proposed to cut off access through federally-funded programs for victims who were drugged or threatened, some victims of incest, and victims of statutory rape.
• Ryan voted repeatedly to prevent our female military service-members from using their own private money to pay for abortion at a military hospital. He also voted for legislation to allow bans on abortion coverage in the new state health-insurance exchanges, even for women paying with their own money.
If you find all of that unbelievable — and dangerous — you’re not alone. But that’s the problem. If voters assume no one could be that bad, and don’t learn the truth about Ryan’s record, Romney/Ryan will have the opportunity to put their vision for women’s health and economic security into action. That’s why we have to spread the word. By November, Ryan’s record shouldn’t be unbelieved, or unknown.
Sandra Fluke graduated cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center and has served as president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice.