Legalizing Sexual Harassment and Legislating Rape: Republican Statehouses Declare War on Women

Article excerpt

One easily predictable but generally unexpected result of the 2010 Republican sweep of statehouses around the country has been a plethora of angry man-boy legislators transforming their contempt for women into legislation.

In Arizona, the Republican-controlled House recently passed a bill (House Bill 2625) that would allow employers to interrogate female employees about their private sex lives--what they do in their bedrooms and why they would want to use birth control. These are the same types of questions that, when asked by an employer or supervisor, normally fall into the category of sexual harassment. Except in Arizona, for now.

The rationale is that health insurance policies often cover the cost of prescription birth control, and while insurers may not charge a premium for the added coverage (which usually winds up saving them money), employers might object to their employees using birth control and hence object to company-contracted insurance providers covering it.

While this might sound like a rationale for a single-payer healthcare system where all patients could access the medical procedures they deem necessary, regardless of their employers' prejudices or views about their personal medical choices, it doesn't play that way in Arizona. There, Republicans argue that an employer has the right to know why an employee makes the contraceptive decisions she makes and, if the employer is not in agreement with how the employee conducts her sex life, to have her insurance company deny her contraceptive coverage. I use the word "she" here, since there is no such provision to question men about the use of sex-related prescription drugs such as Viagra. In fact, no Republican legislative movement exists in any state to curtail health insurance plans paying for such penis-stiffening medications.

Republican Governor Jan Brewer, about whose sex life or contraception use I have no right to ask, doesn't understand the controversy surrounding this legislation, terming the debate a "Democratic ploy" to drive a wedge between women voters and the Republican legislators who want to legalize their harassment.

Yes, it is a wedge, but I don't see how anyone can argue that Democrats, Greens, liberals, or anyone other than the Republican legislators who proposed this bill put it there.

Thou shalt lie to thy patients

Meanwhile, Republican state legislators in Kansas are trying to enact a new law that would both allow doctors to lie to patients about the health of their zygotes and fetuses and mandate that they lie to them about breast cancer risks.

The first category, the permitted lie, would protect doctors from malpractice lawsuits resulting from their intentionally lying to patients about the results of blood tests and ultrasounds, as long as those lies tricked a patient into carrying a zygote or fetus with a devastating medical condition full term to a surprising birth. Republicans in Oklahoma and Arizona are also proposing similar legislation to protect doctors who intentionally lie to their patients.

The Kansas law, however, goes the furthest, not only protecting liars but mandating that honest doctors must lie as well, or face judicial sanction for speaking truthfully. That portion of the law requires doctors to recite a scripted lie to their patients seeking abortion, claiming that their abortion procedure will raise their risk of breast cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, rumors of such a link, which date back to the 1950s, were firmly disproven by the DOs. In 2003 the NCI convened a meeting of the top researchers in the field of breast cancer, who jointly issued a statement confirming that "having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer" Interestingly, they did note that giving birth at a young age cuts the juvenile mother's long-term breast cancer risk. But I don't see Kansas passing a law against teen abstinence programs. …