The Rant 

What would you call someone whose actions intentionally harm their own best interests? "Misguided" is the most charitable word I can think of. What about, say, a union organizer in Wisconsin working to keep Governor Scott Walker in office? Or a group of Mexican-Americans supporting the reelection of Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio because they approve of Arizona's "Your papers, please" law? Would they be masochists or just damned fools?

Then how about any woman who would vote for a Republican in the coming election? I don't mean just the presidential contest, I mean any Republican for any public office. After the GOP's partywide fatwah on women's contraceptive rights was declared and an aggressive campaign to restrict legal abortion swept through statehouses around the country, I can only think of a few possible reasons that women would stick with the Republicans: Either they are indoctrinated, propagandized, misinformed, or motivated by a simmering hatred for our mixed-race president with the foreign-sounding name. Or else they're Marsha Blackburn. A religious-backed effort to strangle women's access to abortion has been spreading through Republican-controlled state legislatures like the whooping cough. Georgia passed the "Women as Livestock" bill, so named when a GOP representative compared pregnant women to "cows and pigs on [his] farm," sparking fistfights between lobbyists and a walk-out by Democratic women who wrapped themselves in crime-scene tape. Commonly called the "Fetal Pain Bill," Georgia criminalized abortion after 20 weeks, down from the current 26 weeks, without exceptions. Similar "fetal pain restrictions" have passed in seven additional states, placing roadblocks toward a woman's right to a legal, and safe, abortion. In Mississippi, the legislature passed a bill mandating that physicians have "admitting privileges" at local hospitals before performing abortions. Since Mississippi's sole abortion clinic is the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the new law would effectively shut it down, fulfilling Governor Phil Bryant's pledge to "make Mississippi abortion free." 

The obvious consequences would force the state's women seeking reproductive rights into Tennessee. However, Representative Blackburn of Brentwood has co-sponsored a bill in Congress prohibiting "bringing minors across state lines for the purpose of abortion." Behind the scenes is the anti-choice group, Operation Save America, which has targeted states with only one abortion clinic, including North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Arkansas, virtually making them also abortion free. If all this sounds eerily like the 1800s, when states were divided into slave states and free states, that is the purpose of the stealth campaign to criminalize abortion through local, rather than federal, law.

Of all the states attempting to bypass the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, perhaps the most zealous jihadists are right here in the Republican-controlled Tennessee General Assembly. They adopted the Mississippi bill concerning physicians' admitting privileges, 93-0 in the House, and are currently being sued by Planned Parenthood to reinstate grant funding stripped by the wing-nut legislature. The most frightening thing is that Republicans are poised to dominate the state's legislative bodies well into the foreseeable future, emboldening the anti-abortion crusaders. Tennessee state representative Matthew Hill, a religious broadcaster from Jonesborough, introduced legislation that would require the Tennessee Department of Health to publish detailed information about every woman in the state who has an abortion, including "age, race, county, marital status, education, number of children, location of the procedure, and how many times the woman has been pregnant." In addition, Hill called for the online publication of the names of doctors performing the procedure. After a citizens' uproar, Hill withdrew the proposal, accusing his opponents of "spreading lies about the bill, slandering his reputation, and inciting threats of violence against him."  

To paraphrase the late, great Tennessee governor Frank G. Clement, "How long, O Lord, must we be held hostage by these rural legislative rubes?" Along with the state's "Don't Say Gay" bill, the legislature has passed an "abstinence first" sex education law with legal penalties for instructors who stray from the curriculum. Nashville Democrat Mike Turner said, "They've got a real thing with sex. We're about ready to ... put the women in burkas here if we keep going at this rate."

Barack Obama is going to beat Mitt Romney like a conga drum in 2012. The Republicans richly deserve the pounding they are about to receive at the polls, and the Tea Party cultural warriors who were voted in in 2010 will just as vigorously be voted out — and the difference will be women. Polls already show that women see right through the transparent attempt by Republicans to pander to the evangelical Christian right with new laws restricting reproductive freedom. The self-proclaimed, anti-big-government activists are attempting the biggest experiment in religious zealotry since Prohibition and all this at a time when the major concerns of the electorate are jobs and the economy.

As soon as uber-patriot Rush Limbaugh said, "I hope he [Obama] fails," the Republicans had their marching orders. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell publicly stated that "our main priority is to ensure that this president is a one-term president." From that day on, the Republicans have stonewalled, filibustered, blocked, or opposed every initiative put forward by the Obama administration, even those first proposed by the GOP. Cap and trade? John McCain's idea. Individual mandate? Bob Dole's idea. The EPA? Richard Nixon's creation. Their grand design is to bring down this president regardless of the damage done to the country. Consequently, the only way to put this nation back on the path to progress is to crush them utterly and make these right-wing reactionaries rue the day they chose partisan politics over principle. Where is Gloria Steinem now that we need her?

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