On 26 March 2011 Geraldine Anne Ferraro died after a long battle with a rare blood cancer; she was 75 years old. Ms. Ferraro was an attorney, business woman, and had served three terms in the House of Representatives before she made history in 1984 as the first female candidate for vice presidency of a major political party.
Her death got me thinking.
In the 98th Congress, of which she was part, there were 24 women. 26 years later, in the 111th Congress there were 90. This series of gains was halted in fall 2010, when for the first time in 32 years, both parties lost women in Congress.
Such a seemingly simple event; the number of women in Congress went down. But as a government shutdown is anticipated for midnight tonight and women’s reproductive health is at the center of the battle, things are anything but simple.
Republicans say the budget compromise hold-up is about cutting spending, that democrats don’t want to do enough. Republicans say it’s all about the money.
I’m confused though. This last piece of the budget, that no one can seem to agree upon, amounts to less than one percent of the money being discussed. If this budget battle was truly about the money, then it would be over and we wouldn’t be trembling at the thought of a government shutdown.
This battle is about the Republicans getting an opportunity to rail against abortions. Whether you are pro life or pro choice, I am sure you are also pro self preservation. Our economy is in a very precarious position and a government shutdown jeopardizes the little progress we have been able to eke out.
Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood because they provide abortions in some facilities as part of their services. To be specific, Planned Parenthood uses three percent of their funds on abortion services. Another 97% is used for contraception and disease and preventive screenings. Defunding Planned Parenthood would cut funding for mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, birth control, pap tests, and std testing long before it touches abortion services.
Republicans have waged war against female reproductive health and the 5,000,000 low income, minority, and otherwise marginalized women using the Title X Family Planning program for their health needs, of which Planned Parenthood is the largest provider.
The number of women in Congress has never been proportional, but the recent losses highlight the ever growing need for female leadership like that of women like Geraldine Ferraro. Women have always been the gate keepers of women’s issues. And without them we are facing posturing that will cost 100s of thousands of federal workers, veterans, and armed forces members their checks as well as causing a fragile housing market and small business industry to backslide.