How Republicans Should Talk about Women’s Issues

Just when you thought it was safe to sit back and enjoy a short respite from the contrived War on Women, Democrats, including 2014 candidates in Ohio, are warming up the war machine in anticipation of this year’s election and the 2016 presidential campaign.

First we have gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald who, after his first pick was dropped from the ticket due to tax problems, selected radical abortion rights advocate Sharen Neuhardt to be his running mate. Neuhardt served for seven years as a Planned Parenthood board member and was endorsed by Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, and NARAL in her failed congressional campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Neuhardt’s 2012 campaign website claims she is a “lifelong supporter of pro-choice causes and women’s reproductive rights,” and she denounces “repeated attempts by this Congress to turn back the clock on women and families.”

[WAR ON WOMEN?  Read on OCR: “Abortion Activists Condemn Patient-Protective Legislation”]

It would have been difficult for FitzGerald to find a more qualified general to stir up the fake War on Women in order to gain leverage against Governor Kasich in 2014. FitzGerald and Neuhardt will likely attack gains celebrated by pro-life advocates in the state, including the shuttering of unsafe, filthy abortion clinics, reprioritization of family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood, funding of pregnancy centers, a heartbeat informed consent requirement, and continued debate of the Obamacare birth control and abortifacient mandates.

[RELATED on OCR: “Yes, Ohio, the Federal Health Law Does Cover Abortion”]

State Senator Nina Turner, who is likely to run for Secretary of State, could also join the FitzGerald campaign trail to bash the governor and other Republicans on what Turner calls Republicans’ “unrelenting obsession with regulating a woman’s womb.” Turner told an abortion rights gathering last year,

“What they are doing is an affront to liberty and personhood. The last time I checked, women are people…. We fight back against the agenda to control our minds and our bodies. We fight back against those who want to make government small enough to fit where the sun doesn’t shine.”

Turner affords no such “liberty and personhood” to unborn women.

On the national scene, in what may be a preview of the 2016 presidential campaign, Gov. Mike Huckabee made some inartful remarks directed at the left’s fabricated War on Women. “I think it’s time Republicans no longer accept listening to the Democrats talk about a War on Women,” Huckabee said during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington. “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a War on Women, they have a War for Women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.” If Huckabee had stopped there, his remarks would have received little notice in the press. But Huckabee continued:

“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 for 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.”

Predictably, the Left heard the words “libido” and “birth control” and immediately proceeded to twist them, take them out of context, and paint Huckabee and the rest of the Republican party as knuckle-dragging misogynists (with several outlets even falsely reporting that Huckabee said that women couldn’t control their libidos).

Democrats continue to use this strategy because they know it works. President Obama won the female vote by 13 points in 2008 and and 11 points in 2012 (compared to only a 4 point advantage by John Kerry in 2004). At least some of that increased support can be attributed to the heated rhetoric over the so-called War on Women. This strategy to attack Republicans is not going away anytime soon.

Can there be any rational defense for conservative policies on these “family planning” issues that won’t be twisted, mocked, and mischaracterized by the Left?

The short answer is, no. There are many on the Left who hate Republicans, despise conservatives values — particularly conservative Christian values — and will go to great lengths to conceal the truth about conservative beliefs and policies from the American people. And they’re not above lying about our positions if they think the ends justify the means.

[RELATED on OCR: Framing the Issues: “What Must Conservatives Do To Win? Part 3”]

We have the choice now to either run away from this fight that the Left continues to bring to our doorstep or to run toward it. Many candidates, including Mitt Romney, largely ran from the War on Women fight in the 2012 election. Some Republicans simply accepted the false premise that Republicans are anti-woman, taking an apologetic stance and mumbling something about needing to change the direction of the party. Few candidates mounted a vigorous defense against that narrative, concerned more with risk aversion than with defending the truth of the Republican positions on women’s issues.

Though we can never eliminate the element of risk from a political campaign, Gov. Huckabee is right that we can no longer afford to accept the left’s talking points on this issue and that it’s time to start fighting back. It won’t be easy, but there are several things our candidates can do to begin to turn the tide in this faux war.

[STRATEGY on OCR: “What Must Conservatives Do To Win? Part 2”]

First, never talk about women’s sex lives. Ever. Period. Until further notice, women’s sex lives are off limits in the context of political campaigns, at least for Republican and conservative candidates who want to win. The word “libido” is hereby banned, as are all word referring to what the Obama campaign referred to as “lady parts.” It’s not because Americans are sensitive to discussions about sexuality — five minutes watching the Grammy Awards will disabuse one of that notion. It’s simply because of the toxic nature of the Left’s abuse of this issue and the way social media gives them the ability to spread misinformation about Republicans’ statements and positions in a matter of minutes, which can be incredibly damaging to a candidate.

The moral debate about the virtues of sexual purity before marriage and fidelity within marriage will not be won by Republican politicians in this libertine, post-modern era of American history. I’m not suggesting we surrender these moral issues to the culture, but if we are to ever get back the ground we’ve lost in the “culture wars,” the battle must be waged, not by politicians, but by individuals, by churches, and by groups that have refused to swear fidelity to a particular party. This is not to say that we cannot and should not seek to elect candidates who are aligned with our values — I believe it’s imperative for us to do that. But if we want those candidates to win, they will have to change the way our side discusses these issues going forward.

[RELATED on OCR: “What Must Conservatives Do To Win? Part 1”]

Instead of focusing on the behavior of women and their sex lives, we need to point out, at every opportunity, that we care about the same two things that Sen. Nina Turner is concerned about: personhood and individual liberty.

When accused of denying women “reproductive services” we must reframe that issue to express our alarm that a baby is being denied life. While there is a certain radical segment of the population that will continue to oppose us, the tide is turning in the direction of the right to life for the unborn. A recent Quinnipiac poll found most Americans support some restrictions on abortion. A total of 55 percent want a 20-week limit on the procedure and only 23% of women believe abortion should be legal in all cases. When a candidate is asked why he wants to deny a woman the right to “control her body,” he should passionately advocate for the right of a baby to live — citing scientific facts about heartbeats and fingernails and brain waves. He should pull a 3-D ultrasound picture of his child or grandchild out of his suit pocket and ask how a compassionate, just society could tolerate destroying tiny people with little arms and legs. Refuse to accept the narrative that this is only about the rights of the woman. Unapologetically defend the personhood, and therefore the liberty, of unborn children. The truth of the humanity of the unborn is so inconvenient that many will cease asking about the issue if we insist on discussing the personhood of those babies and the tragedy of their deaths.

[RELATED on OCR: “Ohio Protects Late-Term Abortionist”]

The issue of liberty should extend to the unborn and also to other women’s issues, such as the Obamacare contraception mandate. We need only to look to the Obama administration forcing Catholic nuns to provide birth control to their employees to see how easy it is to reframe the debate from “denying women contraceptives” to “denying Catholic nuns the liberty to practice their religious beliefs.” Tell women they can have all the birth control they want — they can buy it by the truckload if that’s what they need! Just don’t force those with sincere religious objections to pay for it. Very few Americans find that position unreasonable.

[RELATED on OCR: “In Search of Religious Freedom in Ohio”]

In addition to defending the personhood of unborn children and the religious liberties of all Americans, it’s time to turn the debate around and speak up about the Left’s War on Women. Let’s be the party that’s out front defending women from the greedy, predatory abortion industry. Last April, liberal Democrat Kirsten Powers took to her column in USA Today to talk about the trial of Kermit Gosnell and revelations of infant beheadings, severed baby feet in jars, and a child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure, saying that “anyone with a heart” should be shocked. “This is not about being “pro-choice” or “pro-life. It’s about basic human rights,” Powers wrote. And it wasn’t only about the horrors visited upon the children. Women in Gosnell’s clinic, like they are in abortion clinics across the country, were subjected to unsanitary, unsafe conditions. Women and girls who walk into these clinics routinely face threats to their lives and their health: non-medical personnel performing medical services, blood-stained tables, abortion pills dispensed after their expiration date, soiled, unsterilized instruments, fetal matter caked on freezers. When asked why Republicans in Ohio and elsewhere are closing abortion clinics, we need to tell the true stories of how abortion clinics disregard the lives and health of women. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) did this brilliantly and seamlessly in one sentence in his Tea Party response to the State of the Union address when he named government as the cause of inequality in America, listing several examples. “Inequality is denying viable, unborn children any protection under the law, while exempting unsanitary, late-term abortion clinics from basic safety standards,” Lee said. By telling the truth about the horrors of the abortion industry we can turn the tables and focus the spotlight on Republican and conservative solutions that truly help and protect women.

[RELATED on OCR: “Cincinnati Partial Birth Abortion Mill Granted Legal ‘Stay’”]

These issues are not complicated, but they’ve been distorted by the radical opposition to any restrictions on two of the sacraments of the Left — abortion and free contraceptives. If we can learn to reframe the issues in the context of individual liberty and the personhood of the unborn we can, hopefully, avoid some of the pitfalls our candidates have fallen into in past campaigns and, in the process, educate our fellow Americans about both of these important concepts, showing that our side truly cares about improving the lives of women.

[READ on OCR: All Articles by Paula Bolyard]


Paula Bolyard describes herself as a Christian first, conservative second, and Republican third. She is a member of the Wayne County Executive Committee and is owner and moderator of the Ohio Homeschool Yahoo! Group. She is a contributor at PJ Media Lifestyle, PJ Media, and RedState.

All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.