A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
Women cast nearly ten million more votes than men in the last presidential race. Their traditional preference for Democrats helped put President Obama in the White House. but the female vote swung to the GOP in 2010, giving Republicans congrol of the House. Now there are signs of another shift. Recent polls show Republicans have been hurt by the current focus on contraception, abortion and women’s health issues. This week the President’s re-election campaign plans to launch an intensified effort to mobilize female voters. Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post, Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women and Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the eagle forum, join Diane to discuss the battle for and about women.
- Terry O'Neill President, National Organization for Women.
- Phyllis Schlafly Founder and president, Eagle Forum
- Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. From 1992 to 2008, Democrats won the overall women's vote in every presidential election. But in the 2010 midterms, women shifted to Republicans. Joining me to talk about how both parties are trying to woo the female vote this year: Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, and Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, joining us from a studio in St. Louis, Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the Eagle Forum.
MS. DIANE REHMI hope you'll weigh in this morning with your questions and ideas. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGood morning, Diane.
MS. TERRY O'NEILLGood morning.
MS. PHYLLIS SCHLAFLYGood morning, Diane. Love your show.
REHMThank you so much. It's been a long time since you and I have talked, Phyllis, so I'm glad to have you with us.
REHMKaren, talk about why women have become such an important part of the polling and the voting nation.
TUMULTYWell, for a Democrat to win, for President Obama to win, he has to pull a strong -- a fairly healthy majority among women to offset what is virtually certain to be a deficit among men. I talked to Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who does a lot of studying of these issues, and she estimates that if the president can't pull, say, 53 to 54 percent of the women's vote, he is going to lose. And the other thing that's important to realize, when you talk about the women's vote, is it is not a monolith.
TUMULTYThere is a very sharp divide in this country between the way married women vote and the way single women vote. Single women are very staunch supporters of the Democratic Party. But it is sometimes difficult for the party to engage them and get them to the polls. On the other hand, married women are much more your sort of traditional swing voters.
REHMInteresting, and you've got new polls out this morning.
TUMULTYI do. And I got our crack polling team at The Washington Post to dig down into the cross tabs, and the number I thought was really interesting because our polls show significant slippage for Barack Obama against Mitt Romney over the past month. But there is a real gender divide here where a month ago, men were, in terms of whether or not they approve of Barack Obama, were divided pretty evenly.
TUMULTYThey now are leaning by 14 percentage points disapproval. The president is totally under water with men, 41 approving of him, 55 percent disapproving. On the other hand, the women's approval -- disapproval number has pretty much stayed steady. And this is a month that has been dominated by, you know, one gender-related issue after another.
REHMKaren Tumulty of The Washington Post. I wonder, turning to you, Phyllis Schlafly, are you surprised at the intensity of the recent debate over social issues?
SCHLAFLYWell, I think it's very much contrived. And we watched George Stephanopoulos flay it out onto the national platform in one of the presidential -- debates when contraception was his first question instead of the issues that people really cared about. And I thank Karen for pointing out the real gender gap is the gender gap of men not voting for the Democrats. That is one.
SCHLAFLYAnd the difference between single women and married women -- because it's pretty obvious if you have babies and you don't have a husband to support them, you're going to look to Big Brother government. So I think one of the things that Obama is trying to do is to build a country with more and more people who are dependent for their living expenses on handouts from the government, and that's one of the significant bases of his constituency.
REHMPhyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the Eagle Forum. Terry O'Neill, what about you? Are you surprised at this extraordinary rise in the interest in women's issues?
O'NEILLFrankly, I am. What I'm really surprised about is that the conservatives have decided to go after birth control. Ninety-eight percent of sexually active women utilize birth control. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women who are sexually active use birth control. And so to have this sort of full court press against birth control is making those conservatives extremely unpopular with women.
O'NEILLMy understanding is -- for example, in Michigan, Rick Santorum was doing very, very well in Michigan. And then comes this whole conversation about birth control. And he's opposed to birth control. And you have in the United States Congress, every single Republican in the Senate, except for Olympia Snowe, voted against birth control. Rick Santorum lost Michigan when I think he could've won it but for that issue.
O'NEILLIt's absolutely astonishing that the conservative forces and the Republican leadership think that they -- somehow think that they can win by attacking birth control. They really can't. And, in fact, my belief is that they have now lost young women for an entire generation. That's not coming back because young women have always assumed that birth control would simply be there for them. Now, they know that there are people who are willing to take it away, and those Republicans have lost young women forever.
REHMTerry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. I hope you'll join us, 800-433-8850. Karen, in your article this weekend, you described a perfect storm of social issue controversies. Take us through it. How did it come about?
TUMULTYWell, Phyllis is right. I think, when George Stephanopoulos asked that question about whether states should have the authority to prohibit contraception, a lot of us were like, huh? And Mitt Romney's answer -- Mitt Romney was completely confused at the question and finally said, you know, birth control is fine. Leave it alone. But a number of things -- and, you know, I may even...
REHMAnd then he had to backtrack is the point.
TUMULTYWell, what happened was there was a controversy brewing, I think, off the radar screen for a lot of us, which is whether employers would be required under the new health care law to provide birth control coverage, whether -- you know, whether or not they had conscience, reasons or theological reasons not to do it. And before that even burst onto the scene, we had one thing after another.
TUMULTYThere was the big fight between Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood over grants that Susan G. Komen had been giving it when they attempted to take away the grants. Then they decided to give them back. There was the -- in fact, the last time I was on the show, we were talking about the Virginia legislature's move to require an invasive kind of sonogram before women could get abortions. Then the health care coverage fight burst onto the scene. All this was happening within days of each other.
TUMULTYAnd the Obama White House actually had to back off of its initial stand on that. But it goes to the Senate where there was something called the Blunt amendment, where, essentially, you know, any employer, for almost any reason, could have denied contraceptive coverage. And what happens then is the amendment failed. But then we have Lisa Murkowski in Alaska saying that she was sorry she had voted for it. She's a Republican senator.
TUMULTYAnd then, I think, the thing that really, you know, the gasoline on this fire was Rush Limbaugh getting on the air and suggesting that a young woman, law student at Georgetown, who was arguing in favor of Georgetown being required to provide contraceptive coverage, was doing that because she was a slut and a prostitute. And I think that's where the Democrats finally realized that they had been given a gift on this issue.
REHMAnd, actually, you had Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, sort of saying to her husband, you ought to get off this issue.
TUMULTYActually, it was Rick Santorum's wife who said that.
REHMIt was Rick Santorum's wife.
TUMULTYQuit answering the question.
REHMYeah, yeah. Phyllis Schlafly, what did you make of Rush Limbaugh's comments?
SCHLAFLYWell, picking up on some of the things that were just said...
SCHLAFLY...it's not the Republicans who made this the issue. It's the media, as proved by the open blast from George Stephanopoulos. And the media have continued to ask questions about it. Now, birth control is not an issue. Anybody can get birth control. The question is who's going to pay for it? And the feminists are demanding that everybody else pay for it, whether you approve of it or not. And I think that is where we have the trouble. And I -- you're always talking about access.
SCHLAFLYAccess isn't the problem. It's who's going to pay for it. And they are insisting that the rest of us pay for their contraceptives. And it's interesting that they cannot even sell this idea in Massachusetts, the most liberal of the 50 states. Scott Brown, who's running for re-election to the U.S. Senate, has taken a strong position and voted for the Blunt amendment. And he's opposed by one of the feminist favorites, Elizabeth Warren, a feminist Harvard professor who couldn't even get confirmed by the Democratic Senate.
SCHLAFLYAnd the Boston Globe ran contrary opinion pieces from them. And what this has done is to open up a double-digit lead for Scott Brown. People see it's a phony issue. The issues are unemployment and illegal immigration and the repeal of Obamacare and objection to the mandates of Obamacare that we pay for things that are morally objectionable.
REHMPhyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the Eagle Forum. We'll take just a short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd we're back, talking about what many have said is the absolutely necessary vote of women, how it's going to be gotten by Republicans or Democrats, some of the issues that are currently out there, including birth control, who's going to pay for it versus the economy, which many of us realize is truly the central issue in this election period. Just before the break, Phyllis Schlafly said that she believed that this is really not the issue at all, that is, that contraception is not the issue, but it is the economy. Terry O'Neill, do you want to comment?
O'NEILLWell, I do want to correct one thing that Ms. Schlafly said. What's really at stake in the birth control Blunt amendment debate is whether birth control should be included as one of the required services for preventive care. The Affordable Care Act takes prevention as a key means of lowering overall health care costs. In fact, what the Obama administration has said is that, although churches are exempt, churches can strip out birth control from their women employees' coverage, which the National Organization for Women believes is wrong. We think it violates women's constitutional rights.
O'NEILLBut be that as it may, they've exempted the churches. They also have now said that the religious institutions, universities and nonprofits and hospitals and so forth, that they will not pay for birth control. The insurance company, however, simply has to absorb the full cost of it. The insurance companies are not complaining, and the reason for that, obviously, is that their health care cost for employers who include birth control in their employer-based health care plans, their health care cost will go down.
O'NEILLSo this question of, oh, who's going to pay for it is very misleading. The question is whether birth control should simply be part of the list of required coverage services for prevention. But, Diane, you're absolutely right about the economy. One of the things that women are very concerned about is Medicare, Medicaid, those kinds of economic issues for women. Last year, the House of Representatives actually passed a bill that would have converted Medicare to a private voucher system. And that idea is back again in the United States Congress, and it's something that's very important.
REHMAll right. I want to get back to something you said, Phyllis, because we've had numerous emails questioning you. This from Diane in Brick, N.J., who says, "Phyllis Schlafly stated President Obama is promoting a society that is dependent on government for support. What does she base this on?"
SCHLAFLYWell, the fact that 70 percent of unmarried women voted for Obama in 2010 -- the last election, 2008, and it stands to reason that non-marriage is the main propellant of welfare because if a woman does not have a husband to support her and her children, she's going to look to Big Brother government. And the Obama administration is always trying to increase that constituency. In fact, Democratic adviser Tony Podesta has got 83 bills to increase government handouts to single moms.
O'NEILLThey know that's their constituency. If you don't have a husband, you want Big Brother to do it. And I want to correct something Terry said. It's just an accounting trick to say, oh, the employer won't have to pay for the contraceptives. It's the insurance companies. Now, the insurance companies are not generous nonprofit organizations. They're in business to make money.
O'NEILLAnd if they have to cut back and they have to pay for one item that they're not being reimbursed for, they're going to load the cost up on other items. And that's exactly the way they'll do it, and we end up paying for it. It's just an accounting trick. Obama didn't make any change in his mandate that it has to be paid for.
REHMTerry, is it true, however, that paying for birth control is lots cheaper than paying for pregnancy?
O'NEILLWell, actually, yeah, and all of the health consequences that happen to women who don't have birth control. Actually, the insurance company's costs go down when they cover birth control.
TUMULTYWell, I just wanted to get back to the question of unmarried heads of households, and that is, you know, I don't know that that's a trend that you can blame on Barack Obama. In fact, for the -- it actually predates Barack Obama. In fact, for the first time in American history, in 2006, the majority of households in this country were headed by a single person and not a married person.
TUMULTYSo, you know, I don't know that this is because of government or if this is because of, you know, all sorts of other things that are going on in our society, the high divorce rates, the -- you know, the less social stigma that's attached to single parenthood, that sort of thing.
REHMTerry, I want to ask you about a phrase that's been thrown around a lot and get, first, your take and then that of Phyllis. Are Republicans, in your view, waging something of a war on women?
O'NEILLYes, absolutely. And the war really has two aspects to it. One is an assault on women's reproductive health care services. Look, one in three women will have an abortion before the age of 45. It is a common and necessary aspect of women's reproductive health services. Ninety-eight percent of sexually active women utilize birth control. And yet it's Republicans -- some Democrats, too, I'm sorry to say -- are willing to take action to restrict women's access both to abortion care as well as to birth control.
O'NEILLThe other aspect of the war against women is economic. Not only did we see in the 112th Congress a full assault on Medicare by the Republicans, Paul Ryan's budget would've converted Medicare to a private voucher system, would have block-granted Medicaid and reduced the federal portion by 20 percent.
REHMWhy would Republicans be choosing to limit women's access to contraceptives?
O'NEILLI think that their base believes that it's important to do that. The Catholic bishops have been very, very aggressive in promoting anti-reproductive health care services for women, particularly through the debate about health care reform. So when the country moved toward actually saying, everybody needs to have health insurance, then right-wing forces immediately said -- moved to say, yes, but women's health care must be restricted in these ways.
REHMPhyllis Schlafly, are Republicans waging a war on women?
SCHLAFLYNow, isn't that silly? It is so silly I can hardly believe that people are saying it. Of course, they're not waging a war on women. They're trying to help the economy, which will help women maybe even more than men. But the fact is that the women do very well with Republicans. If you look at the elections in 2008, you find that nearly all the women who were elected were Republicans and were pro-life. And we have a new block of pro-life Republican women in the House and also a couple of governors.
SCHLAFLYAnd the feminists can't elect their people. They couldn't elect Martha Coakley against Scott Brown in Massachusetts. And now, Elizabeth Warren is losing the same way. The people don't want the feminist line. And the Republicans have a good policy for women and for America and for jobs, and they're going to win.
REHMDo you believe that feminists really do have an anti-male agenda, Phyllis?
SCHLAFLYThat some -- that the Democrats have an anti-male agenda?
REHMNo, no, that feminists have an…
SCHLAFLYOh, absolutely. Oh, absolutely.
REHMAnd tell me...
SCHLAFLYFeminists have always been against marriage, against men. They particularly hate the full-time homemaker, and they're trying to get rid of her. Betty Friedan calls a home a comfortable concentration camp. And they've done a pretty good job of cutting employment so that men are having a hard time supporting a full-time homemaker anymore.
O'NEILLYou know, the feminist agenda actually is for equality and equal rights for women and men, so the women have the same responsibilities in the public sphere as men, as well as the same rights in the public sphere and in the private sphere. I do want to correct something. The reality is Kathy Hochul in Upstate New York comes from a very Republican and heavily independent district. She won a special election to the Congress specifically on the issue of what the Republicans were doing to Medicare.
O'NEILLSo to suggest that somehow the Democrats are not able to have strong pro-choice, pro-women candidates that win is simply wrong. And I also want to raise another issue, which I -- this is something where, I think, I do agree with Phyllis. There is a real problem of single-parent households, which are predominantly single-mother households, but not exclusively, and that is with the wage rates.
O'NEILLOver the past 30 years, wages have flattened and gone down in many communities, in many job categories, and there's some suggestion that that is responsible for the lower rates of marriage. Young people interviewed say, well, I'm not ready to get married yet. I'm not settled. I don't have a full-time job. I only have a part-time job. So marriage rates, I think, are very much influenced by the job situation, which is not as good as it should be. And minimum wages need to go up because young people can't support a family on minimum wage.
TUMULTYWell, it was interesting, as I was reporting my story over the weekend, talking to Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster. She said the reaction of a lot of women -- and especially blue collar women that she talks to in focus groups as they hear this whole contraceptive debate -- is not anger or picking one side or another. It's just, huh? It's like, why are we talking about this when my house is burning down in the economy? And I also talked to Olympia Snowe, who is about to retire, Republican woman senator from Maine.
TUMULTYAnd back during the 1980s, when the Republicans first identified their problem with women voters -- it was dubbed at that point the gender gap -- you know, she was running meetings in the Reagan White House, trying to sort of come up with ways the party could deal with these issues with women. And Olympia Snowe was very alarmed because she said, you know, the Republican Party has made a lot of progress with women. And Phyllis is right.
TUMULTYAt a -- you know, in the 2010 election, the number of women in Congress actually went down for the first time in a long time, but there were three women governors elected, all of them Republican. So people like Olympia Snowe are very alarmed that, you know, this kind of conversation -- which it's not only divisive, it's just off-topic -- as far as most people, most voters are concerned is really going to hurt the Republicans.
REHMKaren Tumulty of...
SCHLAFLYWell, I do agree that it's off...
REHM...The Washington Post. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Phyllis Schlafly, do you think that Republican candidates hurt themselves by not denouncing Rush Limbaugh's attacks on the young female student?
SCHLAFLYI think Rush Limbaugh is another phony issue. I would like to hear the feminists and the left-wingers and the media apologize for the every bit as bad things that have been said about Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Laura Ingraham, Condoleezza Rice and Michelle Malkin. And it is just absolutely disgusting what's been said about those women, those conservative women. And it's a double standard of the media, and so I think Rush is a false issue.
REHMI fully agree with you that there should have been denouncement of those kinds of comments. Terry, what do you think?
O'NEILLYeah. The National Organization for Women has a Media Hall of Shame, and we call out those who attack women in the public sphere. We have called out attacks on Sarah Palin, on Michele Bachmann, as well as on Hillary Clinton and Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. I was shocked, frankly -- and I still am shocked -- that Mitt Romney has not condemned Rush Limbaugh's behavior.
O'NEILLIt was not the word slut or prostitute that was the real problem with what he did. He spent three days, three hours each day, basically voicing sexual fantasies about a 30-year-old woman whose only crime was that she stepped into the public sphere to testify before Congress. Not only did Mitt Romney not condemn this very, very nasty attack, but Rick Santorum defended him, did the classic bully's defense, which is, oh, he's an entertainer. He's just joking. Can't you take a joke? That is something that has completely shocked me.
REHMPhyllis, do you see a difference between the young woman at Georgetown and the politically out there women that were talked about earlier?
SCHLAFLYWell, this Sandra Fluke is -- she's a feminist activist, and I think people may not realize how really cuckoo she is because she wrote a law review article saying that sex change operations should be covered by Obamacare and by the taxpayers. And I just don't think most people would go along with that, so that's where she's going with this.
SCHLAFLYAnd the real issue behind all these things is the mandates that are coming up from the Obama administration about what insurance we're going to have to buy and what it will cover and what we will have to pay for even though we don't want it or don't believe in it.
O'NEILLYou know, the law review article of a young law student that deals with serious issues, such as whether a sex change operation ought to be covered by insurance, that is something that we need to have a serious conversation about. And the proper response to a woman who steps out and says, here's what I think, is not to have three hours a day for three days voicing these fantasies about her sexual activity.
SCHLAFLYWell, she's had a lot more than three hours on the media, which has been generally defending her.
REHMKaren, do you think that the polling of women has been at all affected by what Rush Limbaugh has had to say?
TUMULTYIt certainly has dominated the conversation, and it was so outrageous that, I think, it just got people's attention. But Keith Olbermann, of all people, made what I thought was a really excellent point, where he said Rush Limbaugh may have actually done some good here because if what he has done is made everybody on all sides -- and at that point Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC host -- or now, I guess, he's on Current TV -- had been accused of some of this kind of language, too.
TUMULTYAnd he said, I'm going to improve my standards here. And there was a really out-there comedian who was supposed to perform at the Radio TV Correspondents dinner who said really unbelievably vile things about Sarah Palin. And he decided to not do that.
REHMI wonder if he was disinvited.
TUMULTYIt's unclear, but all I can say is, you know, what we may have done through all of this is raised a little bit of -- raised our standards on all sides.
REHMI sure hope so. Karen Tumulty, Terry O'Neill, Phyllis Schlafly. After a short break, we'll come back and open the phones. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back. It's time to open the phones. First, let's go to Peggy in Silver Spring, Md. Good morning. You're on the air.
PEGGYGood morning, Diane and guests. And thanks for letting me get in my two cents worth.
PEGGYFirst of all, let me say that, as a practicing Catholic, I don't really view abortion as health care, contraception, all this authentic health care. I don't view pregnancy as a disease either. It seems to me -- I agree with Phyllis -- there is a definite double standard in the secular media on one hand. I think they hold up contraception and abortion on demand as a liberty, a woman's liberty, but not much is said at all about the loss of those 332,000 souls a year with the use of taxpayer's money to the abortion industry.
REHMAll right. Terry.
O'NEILLI do agree with the caller that pregnancy is not a disease, but let's go back to the time when women did not have reliable birth control. Women were subjected in those days to 10, 12, 13 pregnancies and childbirths. They died younger than they do today. And when they lived, they lived sicker than women do today. So birth control, as prevention of pregnancy, is indeed extremely important to women's health.
O'NEILLAnd, yes, over half of pregnancies in this country are unintended, and somewhat less than half of those unintended pregnancies results in abortion. Better birth control and better sex education for our young people would do a lot to bring down the abortion rate.
REHMPhyllis, do you want to comment?
SCHLAFLYWell, we've had sex education in schools and teaching them how to use condoms for many, many years. And I'm sure everybody knows about it, and it's not expensive. But in any event, I think, really, the whole country understands this issue of Obamacare as a matter of religious liberty. It's not just the Catholics. It's forcing employers and their employees to pay for things that they think are morally wrong. And the problem is the mandate of Obamacare. And this is why the repeal of Obamacare is a major issue in this campaign.
O'NEILLDiane, I want to say, I think that the argument that there's a religious liberty being infringed here by covering birth control is flat-out wrong. In fact, religious fundamentalists that preach against birth control have failed. Ninety-eight percent of religious women who are sexually active are using birth control. So, now, the Catholic bishops want government to do what they have failed to do, and that is force women to stop using birth control. That is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
O'NEILLSo that claim that there is some kind of religious liberty is flat-out false. And even if the establishment clause is not violated by their suggestion, women have a First Amendment religious freedom to be free from other people's religion. Women have a 14th Amendment right to the equal protection of the laws. Women have a privacy right under Griswold v. Connecticut to birth control. And women have a right, under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not to be discriminated against in the workplace.
O'NEILLSo, for all of those reasons, you know, when you have constitutional rights that conflict, the courts are required to weigh which constitutional right is weightier. And in this case, I think it's absolutely clear that women's constitutional rights to birth control and to have birth control included in this ordinary list of coverages that insurance companies have to carry in their health plans, I think women have the far stronger rights here.
SCHLAFLYWell, again, the issue is, Diane, not access. They all have access to it. It's who's going to pay for it. And they want to make us, the rest of us pay for it.
TUMULTYI think that, originally, this issue did -- Republicans were happy to cease on it because it was, they thought, a prime example of the -- what they call the overreach of the new health care law. But, you know, once it got into contraception versus no contraception, and, especially, this comes at the moment that Rick Santorum, who has been quite vocal about his opposition to -- his personal opposition to contraception, it was assuming that leading part in the Republican primary.
TUMULTYAnd I think that, again, that was all part of this perfect storm. But one thing that was really interesting was that Rick Santorum, last week in the Michigan primary, lost the Catholic vote by 13 percentage points to Mitt Romney, a much bigger margin than he lost the primary overall.
REHMAnd to what do you attribute that?
TUMULTYWell, my colleague Dan Balz wrote a piece over the weekend. You know, again, I think probably Catholic voters are, as much as everybody else, motivated by economic issues. But again, they are a swing-voting constituency, and I think everybody will be paying attention to them.
REHMHere's an email from Jonathan in Washington, D.C., who says, "Please don't overlook the male perspective. What Republicans suggest interferes with my fiancée's and my sex life and our household finances. Whenever Republicans have nothing to run on, they run on opinions about what is moral. Focus on the economy, America's poor, and stay out of our bedrooms." Terry.
O'NEILLYeah. Here, here. Actually, it's just -- I was talking to a friend of mine last week who called and said, the president of a national union just got off the phone with me. He's ranting about birth control. He said, how dare they go after birth control? And what he was talking about was his wife and his daughters and their health care needs. The unions are with us. The civil rights community is with us. The -- there really is a unanimity of support for women's access to birth control and including it in health care plans.
REHMAll right. To Detroit, Mich., good morning, Keith.
KEITHGood morning, Ms. Rehm. Good morning, ladies. I just want to say that the way the argument is being framed by the liberal side, I think, is disingenuous because they're saying that Republicans have -- see contraception as the issue to go after when, in essence, it really wouldn't have been an issue at all if President Obama hasn't brought it to the forefront. And for me, the issue is not about women's rights 'cause women have plenty of access to contraceptives. Men do as well.
KEITHThe issue is the religious rights of organizations to be able to pick in twos what type of coverage they want to offer without being mandated to do something that goes against their conscience, what they believe in. And so for me, that's the issue.
REHMAll right. OK. Karen.
TUMULTYWell, I think this is a -- Keith is giving us a great example of -- so often in politics, the person who wins the fight is actually the person who gets to define the question.
REHMAnd who do you think defined the question?
O'NEILLWell, I think...
SCHLAFLYWell, the media are trying to define the question, and the Republicans didn't create this issue. The Democrats and the media created it, and they are trying to make it the centerpiece. And Republicans are basically just responding to media questions, whereas they would really rather be talking about unemployment, illegal immigration, repeal of Obamacare and the tremendous spending of our tax dollars that were borrowed from China.
O'NEILLSo a little defense of the media here. I think what happened is, after the 2010 elections when women's voting participation plummeted -- that was the word that Celinda Lake used when she was talking to me about this -- women did not vote in large enough numbers in 2010. In 2010, Tea Party candidates swept into office in the United States Congress, and, even more importantly, they swept into office at the state level. In the states, 1,100 and more anti-reproductive rights bills were proposed. Over 100 passed in the states this year, shattering the previous record.
O'NEILLIt is unprecedented, the number of anti-women's rights -- anti-reproductive health care provisions that went on at the state. That was not by the media. In fact, it was not even covered very much, but, I think, it's kind of under the radar screen of those of us who were not activists. A lot of people were not aware of it. This -- the sonogram bill, the ultrasound bills, for example, there are already 11 states that have sonogram laws. Most of them...
SCHLAFLYWell, that's the matter of full disclosure. Tell a woman what she's really going to get.
O'NEILLYeah. Well, actually, we call it the ritualized humiliation of women, and most of those laws do not require transvaginal probe. Some of them do. In Alabama, it has newly been proposed. And the senator who proposed the ultrasound law said he was going to give women a choice. Would you rather be humiliated with a vaginal probe or would you rather be humiliated with an external sonogram?
O'NEILLAnd the purported purpose of this is to determine gestational age. That is medically inappropriate in many cases. When it's medically appropriate to have an ultrasound, the doctor provides one. But these laws require ultrasounds, whether it's medically appropriate or not, and it's very expensive. And it's not consensual. These things were going on and have burst into the public consciousness recently, but they absolutely have been pushed by extremist legislators.
SCHLAFLYWell, there's nothing extremist about the 5th Circuit, and it completely upheld that Texas law with a beautiful decision. It's right that women should be told exactly what an abortion is before they agree to go forward with it.
REHMAll right. To Rhonda in Murphy, Texas. Good morning. You're on the air.
RHONDAYes. Good morning. Thank you. As a Christian woman, I've been married for nearly 27 years, and I'm the mother right now of three young adult children. And I've been a home -- a full-time homemaker for most of that time. And so I don't necessarily present the profile that Ms. Schlafly is presenting in terms of what the president wants.
RHONDABut I feel that I along with other sensible people must challenge her and other so-called conservatives who constantly present this negative drumbeat of information because I've known of her for over 30 years, and I actually used to be very active in some national Christian organizations. But what I've seen over those 30 years is that they've become very isolated. They've become one, very issue-oriented, mainly dealing with people's personal choices. And I'm just really very disheartened that she continues to present this.
RHONDAAnd when she talks about the fact that the president want to basically build his constituency among single mothers or single parents and he wants the rest of the country to pay for it, I think we must begin and continue to challenge this type of information because, as one of the other ladies said that that particular trend has been going on for a number of years. And I just think that reasonable people need to start challenging and continue to challenge this type of negativity because it does none of us any good.
REHMThanks for your call.
SCHLAFLYWell, the caller just made a personal attack that absolutely makes no sense.
REHMHow do you see that as a personal attack, Phyllis?
SCHLAFLYWell, she made a number of references that I was wrong, and she doesn't establish any proof of it whatsoever. It's just simply an anti-Phyllis statement.
REHMI thought she was talking as much about herself as anything else. How did you hear it, Terry?
O'NEILLWhat I heard is an evolution of a woman who has deeply-held religious values and wants to be able to promote her values, but is disappointed at a single-minded focus on negative anti-women, anti-reproductive rights rather than maybe going into a positive pro-active role for how about if we do things that would uplift all families?
SCHLAFLYWell, there's nothing anti-woman...
REHM...she is president of the National Organization for Women. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To St. Louis, Mo., good morning, Derrick. (sp?)
DERRICKYeah. Thank you. I -- you know, I'm an attorney and followed this issue about 30 years now. And this whole debate, it has been one of the most maddening I could ever think of. And I really believe that the left, they know better, and with all due deference to the woman from NOW, you know better than this. There is no constitutional right to have something like this particularly. Secondly, there has been no attempt by any serious Republican, particularly in Congress, or a conservative to outlaw contraception. And it's the way this argument is being framed.
REHMAll right, Terry.
O'NEILLNow, the attempt is to restrict contraception. And I have said this a number of times. The Catholic bishops don't have to be elected. Neither does Rush Limbaugh. They're pretty safe. But politicians who vote to restrict birth control will pay a price at the polls. Lisa Murkowski faced a tsunami of protests when she got back to Alaska, and it was from Republican women and independent women who were appalled that she voted to restrict birth control, which is what Blunt amendment was about.
SCHLAFLYShe didn't vote to restrict it. She voted to prevent the government from requiring the rest of us to pay for it.
TUMULTYWell, it was the conscience clause in the Blunt amendment, I think, was a bit broader though -- and Phyllis is absolutely right in terms of how the question is being framed on the Republican side. But I think that when it moved outside the religious sphere, that was when even a lot of Republicans began to think that the Blunt amendment was overly broad.
REHMAll right. And, finally, to Raleigh, N.C. Good morning, Nancy.
NANCYWell, good morning. I have quick points to make that I must tell you that I am just sitting here aghast. Did Ms. Schlafly say that women who can't find a husband to support them turn to the government for support? I mean, what century is the woman inhabiting? Does she not know that many women support themselves and that many married women are actually the major breadwinner in the family? OK, enough of that. Two quick points.
NANCYMy first point is these polls that show Obama's disapproval numbers and the assumption that the disapproval number means these are Republicans who will vote against him is absolute nonsense. I disapprove. I think Guantanamo should have been closed. But, believe me, there is not a symbolic chance in Hades that I would ever vote for a Republican. So disapproval ratings also include people who are even more disapproving of the Republican policy. So I think that's one point I wanted.
NANCYAnd the other one I wanted to make -- nobody has asked this question. But these hospitals, not church, mind you, but hospitals that want to restrict the use of the pills, I'm curious: how do they know whether the pill is being prescribed for therapeutic uses -- and there are many -- or as birth control? I mean, do they...
REHMAll right. Karen.
TUMULTYWell, one thing I think that one of the reasons that Rush Limbaugh got into so much trouble was that he suggested that this young woman at Georgetown was -- wanted contraception so that she could go out and be promiscuous and have more sex. And, in fact, contraception is the main reason that a lot of women have been able to go into the workforce and finish their educations. It's an economic issue, not just a sexuality issue for women to be able to determine the number of children that you're going to have and when you have them.
REHMAnd let's just hope that, eventually, we will get back to these economic issues and set aside all of these private issues for women and men. Terry O'Neill, Karen Tumulty, Phyllis Schlafly, thank you all so much. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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