The Republican war on women: wag the dog?

As folks at a conference headlined by Santorum got literature explaining how the pill causes breast cancer (there is no good science to back this up) and chastity is the only acceptable way to avoid pregnancy:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pleaded with those in his party to “get off” the war on women. If a major conservative group disseminating literature attacking women’s reproductive health at its star-studded convention is any indication, the former GOP presidential nominee’s call is being completely ignored. With 70 percent of women agreeing that President Obama’s contraception requirement is a matter of women’s health, continuing to attack birth control could spell disaster for Republicans in the fall.

I’ve been wondering about this for a while. Have the Republicans really lost touch with reality so completely that they cannot see their own electorate will not stand for having birth control taken away? Or is this whole campaign against women designed to distract us from something else they’re up to?

On the “sadly, they are totally serious” side, this has been brewing for a while, and they’ve been sounding increasingly like aliens from another planet for the past several years – and maybe it’s just a desperate last-ditch effort to derail Obama’s healthcare reform. On the “it’s a scam” side, it’s hard to imagine this many poll-obsessed principle-free sell-to-the-highest-bidder types would take an unpopular stand like this without what they consider a really good reason.

If they are putting a principle ahead of politics for once, what principle is it? Don’t say Christianity and make me laugh. These people would switch to demon worshiping in a heartbeat if that’s where the benefits were. Are they just so incensed that Obama gave them the run around on healthcare while they were busy waving their dicks at each other over the deficit ceiling that they’ve decided to get him even if they tank their own careers, too? And if so, could anything but virulent racism possibly explain that?

If it’s not obvious, these are some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head as I try to fathom what on earth it is I am seeing the Republican party do. Virulent misogyny seems the obvious explanation, but virulent racism seems pretty clear to me from the get-go, when I remember how absolutely unwilling the Republicans were to budge on anything back during the deficit ceiling crap or the following “no new taxes [for rich people]” debacle. And I’m sure there are other options that haven’t yet occurred to me.

Why has the Republican party spent the last couple of years ardently pursuing agendas their own people don’t even support? Are they up to something? Or are they just stuck in group narcissist thinking – where their delusions of grandeur actually prevent them from grasping that people won’t suddenly wake up on election day and realize that giving up their birth control and raising taxes on the middle class and poor are superb ideas that they support?


  1. Patrick McGraw says

    I think it’s because the strategy of appealing to the “racism, misogyny, and religious hegemony” base has backfired and said “base” has now taken over the party.

  2. I.A. Scott says

    If they weren’t so desperate to be rid of Obama I might have thought that they were attempting to reduce peoples’ standards of Republican behaviour for this round so that they can put a crappy candidate out next round and have them look like a saint.

    As it is it kind of looks like they’re busy being co-opted by the more nightmarish elements of their group.
    There might also be the weird conservative thing of “if we back off now, people will think we’re weak” where they absolutely refuse to give up on ideas, no matter how ridiculous or unpopular, for fear of losing face.

  3. says

    Palaverer, my mistake. I should phone them up, explain the mistake and apologize for limiting their bigotry scope.

    Patrick McGraw, aha. The Southern Baptists and other social groups have been trying to take over the Republican party since the 70s, so that makes sense – they couldn’t bring themselves to turn down the money that came with the takeover, and told themselves “We’ll keep them on a short leash”, but that’s failed and now the apes are running the zoo.

    I.A. Scott: If they weren’t so desperate to be rid of Obama I might have thought that they were attempting to reduce peoples’ standards of Republican behaviour for this round so that they can put a crappy candidate out next round and have them look like a saint.

    LOL, they’re certainly setting the stage for this, whether they mean to or not! But yeah, I think you’re right that it’s more just the extremists have taken over.

    I think the whole party desperately needs a centrist reboot – one that wants less government in our wallets AND our bodies/bedrooms/private lives.

    Of course, what I really want is another party or so, because I’m not thrilled with any of them. It’s just the Republicans are the only party saying more or less “We want to take away your bc meds so you will get cancer and die, bitch.” Despite their many failings, I can’t say the Democrats seem to want me to dead. But is that a reason to vote for somebody – the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Depressing.

  4. SunlessNick says

    Or are they just stuck in group narcissist thinking – where their delusions of grandeur actually prevent them from grasping that people won’t suddenly wake up on election day and realize that giving up their birth control and raising taxes on the middle class and poor are superb ideas that they support?

    A collective inability to grasp that lives unlike their own are quite real. Moral questions like this one are just abstract ways of winning points in an abstract game – a way of ticking an “I’m good” box – not a thing that has real consequences for people’s real lives. That’s the most benign spin I can put on it. Their rhetoric stresses how taking the control of women’s bodies away is good for the women concerned. I don’t see how they can expect such rhetoric to outweigh the concrete harm their laws do to women unless, on some level, they can’t grasp that the latter is more real than the former. Otherwise, the best I can come up with is naked hatred.

  5. says

    SunlessNick, Narcissists actually do have problems grasping the reality of people who are right there in front of them shouting “But your actions are harming me!”, so they sure as hell don’t care about the consequences of their actions on people they will never meet. So your benign spin does make sense… but it involves having no social conscience or sense of personal responsibility at all, so it’s not very benign! And also, I don’t see that it’s incompatible with naked hatred – they hate us, and therefore REALLY don’t care what consequences we incur from their actions, and it’s all about them and how their little abstract game points stack up.

  6. Sabrina says

    I think the Republicans have reached such a low level where some kind of collective Dunning-Kruger effect has now kicked in. They’re so incompetent and and out of touch with reality that they are not able to realize how inane their statements have become.

  7. says

    Sabrina, ah, I didn’t know there was a study to back up the idea that incompetent people are too incompetent to realize how incompetent they are, whereas competent people are more unsure of their skills, because they’re more aware how much they don’t know. Great – now I can put it forth as someone else’s research, not just my personal observation! :)

  8. SunlessNick says

    Jennifer Kesler, So your benign spin does make sense… but it involves having no social conscience or sense of personal responsibility at all, so it’s not very benign!

    No, not very benign at all. Just that a complete inability to see the effect of their actions is the only alternative I can see to complete callousness or active evil. And these days I find it hard to see it as a more likely one than either. If it’s a distraction, as you wondered, then I’d still count it among the evil.

  9. Quib says

    I see a lot of one-up-man-ship, and that gets things absurd very quickly.

    There’s a lot of rhetoric feeding back into itself.

    I think it’s a sort of inherent trap in looking at things from an economic point of view; Once you have your metrics for assessing or predicting success, it’s difficult bring in new sources of information to get a complete picture, or even realize that it’s possible to do so. It’s just like DC reboots trying to be even more fratboy* oriented.

    *dudebro, white-heterosexual-male-between-ages-18-and-30

  10. Fairfield says

    Those were fantastic articles, thank you Amy! This in particular caught my eye:

    “But by forswearing compromise, it opened the door to a single shot. The Republicans have gained the House and stand poised to win control of the Senate. If they can claw out a presidential win and hold on to Congress, they will have a glorious two-year window to restore the America they knew and loved, to lock in transformational change, or at least to wrench the status quo so far rightward that it will take Democrats a generation to wrench it back.”

    Anyone else get chills from reading that? Things are bad enough as it is but with absolute carte blanche I hesitate to even think about how awful it could become. This remind me of another NYTimes article, written by Maureen Dowd, in which she writes:

    “In the old days, the Republican ego had control of the party’s id. The id, sometimes described as a galloping horse or crying baby, “the dark, inaccessible part of our personality … chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations,” as Freud called it, was whipped up obliquely by candidates. Nixon had his Southern strategy of using race as a wedge, Bush Senior and Lee Atwater used the Willie Horton attack, and W. and Karl Rove conjured the gay marriage bogyman.

    Once elected, those presidents curbed the id with the ego, common sense and reason. But now the G.O.P.’s id is unbridled. The horse has thrown the rider; the dark forces are bubbling. Moderates, women, gays, Hispanics and blacks — even the president — are being hunted in this most dangerous game.”

    The original article in full:

  11. Red says

    I first heard about the whole ‘birth control causes breast cancer’ thing back when the Komen Foundation pulled the funding from Planned Parenthood’s mammogram project. Actually, more like abortion causes breast cancer. I see no relation between the two. At one article I replied to a respondent provided a link to said ‘study’ and after a careful look over I deemed it bogus and told her so.

    Why? Because while I can’t claim to be an expert, I’ve looked up enough medical studies-real ones-to be able to get at least a generally good idea of which ones are real and which are based on vague assumptions and not solid evidence.

    For one thing (please pardon me if this veers into off-topic here. Just want to explain why I don’t buy into that scare); the website of the ‘study’ itself; it’s beyond ‘basic’ and ventured into ‘juvenile’ territory. It looked very dated and gave the impression that the person didn’t care enough to put real effort into making the site at least LOOK reputable. If it were a building, I’d walk right past it because who’s to say that the people inside are trustworthy? Or even really know what they’re doing/talking about?

    As for the study itself; there is NO Who, What, Where, When, Why, How order of things. What there are of them are very vague and again, based on old information from decades ago. NO explanation of how the study or studies were conducted, no sample data, what they did, how big the sample was or how they came to their conclusions. I’m sure there are other things, but those jumped out at me.

    On top of that, there is NOTHING to show that this study is supported by the American Cancer Society, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization or any of the other reputable organizations that oversee and perform such studies. In fact, NOT ONE of these groups is named on their site as a supporter.

    The kicker? When i told all of this to the woman who responded to my post, she went on about how all those group have a ‘political agenda’ and basically claimed they were lying. I couldn’t believe it. Basically, she was saying that these medical organizations, who employ the most brilliant, respected doctor in the world, WANT women to get abortions and thereby, breast cancer. WTF?!?!!!

    Anyway, as to why Santorum and others like him are doing this?

    The answer is simple; they’re selfish. All they think about on this issue is how THEY FEEL about it. And how THEY FEEL takes precedence over how others might feel or what is actually in the best interests of said others. Because it’s all about themselves, NOT about the many people who would be directly effected and harmed by such actions. How they feel about the matter comes before the reality of the consequences because it’s not their lives that will be directly effected.

    Bottom line; they don’t care about the people that would be hurt by their words and actions. They care about the person looking back at them in the mirror. It’s simple vanity and selfishness, not compassion that drives them.And they won’t be told otherwise. Honest self-reflection is too frightening for people like that.

  12. says

    Jennifer Kesler: Despite their many failings, I can’t say the Democrats seem to want me to dead. But is that a reason to vote for somebody – the enemy of my enemy is my friend?

    Yes, yes it is. Because you are not voting for the lackluster person. You are voting AGAINST the person who really obviously wants you dead. That’s what makes it so important to vote. (Primary voting might get your a better enemy of your enemy, though.) We are voting for our lives right now.

    Right now they are pandering to their base because they think if they excite those really really conservative Christians and the liberal base is too discouraged by Democratic centrism that they stay home (as happened in 2010), that they can win. They WANT you to think “going for the enemy of my enemy rather than my friend is too depressing. Is that really a reason to vote?” That sort of demoralization is what gets your enemy elected. I really believe that sort of demoralization is why they feel free to just go all out this year.

  13. says

    Ragnell, my point was not whether or not people should vote. It was that we deserve a better choice than the candidate whose party is pathetic v. the candidate whose party scares the hell out of us, and yet that’s the choice we typically get. Whatever you think of voting in principle, I think you have to admit that a vote is a lot more valuable if at least one of the choices is a really good one. And I don’t mean the candidate, but rather the party. Because, for example, I think Obama’s been pretty damn good overall, but his achievements have definitely been compromised by the fact that his party can’t even figure out how to win when they’ve got the fucking majority.

    We deserve a 3-4 party system, and we deserve for at least one of those parties be effective at doing good things.

  14. says


    Well, here’s what the National Cancer Institute says about abortions causing breast cancer: they don’t. They’re an agency of the federal government, and have been around for a very long time, under many administrations. They exist to research cancer and inform people about it, and to do anything else that might reduce the risk. I’m sure the woman you talked to can find a way to doubt them.

    For anyone debating people about whether bc pills cause breast cancer, here’s a bit of anecdota that might help: since I’ve been on BC most of my life to control my PCOS and keep it from causing me ovarian cancer, I naturally ask all my doctors if there’s any truth to bc causing breast cancer. I have been assured by two OB-GYNs and a GP – oh, and one endocrinologist – that there is no good science showing that it causes breast cancer. And even the bad science only indicates a very slightly elevated risk or breast cancer. One OB-GYN told me bluntly that even if the slightly elevated risk were true, she’d advise me to take those odds over the odds of getting ovarian cancer that come with not taking bc pills. Because with early detection, breast cancer is often quite survivable, but ovarian cancer is rarely detected before the patient is “morbund” – that is, dying and well beyond the help of any cancer surgery or treatment. And yes, the science that tells us PCOS is linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer is good science. (I’ve seen people questioning that part a lot lately, too.)

    So, I know people who aren’t really affected by this stuff will dismiss what my doctors have said as Shit Doctors Say or something (I mean, we all know HMOs and politicians and Catholic bishops are better qualified to practice medicine, right?), but I have a far more powerful motive to squeeze the truth out of my doctors than these pundits have, and this is what I’ve been told.

  15. Red says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I know and THAT is what’s so frustrating. To say nothing of dangerous.

    I don’t believe those claims for an instant (and that’s not all; one guy on a HuffPo article actually tried to INSIST that there’s a connection between BC and autism!) The fact that there are people who DO and that they persist in spreading it around and trying to pass it off as ‘fact’ is just… i don’t have words.

    Seriously, I really, REALLY WISH that those passing around such unverified claims could be charged with fraud.

  16. Patrick McGraw says

    I’m a progressive, closer to a Social Democrat than anything else, so there’s pretty much never a candidate that lines up with my positions in US elections. But some of the Democrats’ positions come close to mine, or at least are a step in the right direction.

    I find it very telling that the people going on about “X causes autism!” are usually the same ones accusing the pro-choice movement of wanting to practice eugenics. I’m on the autism spectrum, and these people see me only as a way to win points. Then again, they seem to see everybody that way, or at least minorities.

  17. Amy McCabe says

    *Amy puts on her academic librarian hat*

    I did some database searching with CINHAL and, yes, there is an increased risk of certain breast cancers from oral contraceptives for certain individuals. The research is current (it started mostly in the 1990s, but continues on as recent as this year). It is in numerous scholarly journals. There seems to be other risk factors involved though.

    I myself was steered away from the pill by my OBGYN because certain aspects of my family history and history of migraines. Apparently if you have migraines the pill increases (slightly) your chance of stroke and, given the strong history of strokes and heart attacks are in my family, I’ve heeded my doctor’s advice. (And let me know even get into the Nuva Ring incident-let’s just say any form of estrogen therapy is not for me.)

    I’m not arguing against the pill! Don’t get me wrong! I don’t see this fact as detracting from the pill. Of course the pill isn’t right for all women. No medicine is. Even vitamins have risks. I currently use an IUD. I’m certain that’s not right for all women either. Every treatment comes with a negative and positive effect and it is up to the patient and her doctor to determine what is the best course of action. There are certain medical situations that make the pill the absolute right choice from women. There are others forms of birth control out there (that also need to be covered!) for those women who (like me!) really shouldn’t use the pill.

    Quite frankly, if conservatives were so concerned about breast cancer (and not, you know, controlling women like their real agenda is), I think they should be tackling women’s right to breastfeed in public, women’s right to have nearby daycare & take nursing breaks, and ensure that all mothers can pump safely and privately. Also they should do what they can to break the breast=sex culture. Breastfeeding for over 2 years has been proven to dramatically reduce ones chances of getting breast cancer and doing the above greatly increases a mother’s chance of breastfeeding for longer.
    Of course, given the current climate I’m afraid they’d just use that as an excuse to keep us locked in our homes instead. :(

  18. Amy McCabe says

    I want to add/stress to my above post that while risk was shown, it was slight and only to certain groups of individuals. And that is particular to a certain formula (there really is no one “pill” but a variety of oral contraceptive options out there).

    If you haven’t gotten your hands on this, you should:

    Casey, PM, JR Cerhan, and S Pruthi. “Oral Contraceptive Use And Risk Of Breast Cancer.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 83.1 (2008): 86-91.

    I’ll paste the conclusion here:

    Oral contraceptives are a highly effective, safe, well-tolerated,
    and convenient contraceptive method for a substantial
    number of women in the United States. They are contraindicated
    in certain groups of patients. Given the variety of
    formulations currently available, therapy can and should
    be individualized to the patient’s needs. Although epidemiological
    studies have documented a small increased
    risk of breast cancer associated with use of older OC
    formulations, recent studies that included newer formulations
    have not detected an increased risk. Even with the
    older formulations, the absolute (or excess) risk of breast
    cancer is minimal. Thus, current evidence suggests that
    OCs do not play a clinically important role in the risk of
    breast cancer. This evidence must also be weighed against
    the effect on other health outcomes and the risks associated
    with other contraceptive methods and with unintended

    I guess the bottom line is, if you are on the pill, I wouldn’t let this keep you up at night.

  19. Amy McCabe says

    Other things…

    While there is some evidence that the older formula pills out there cause slight increase of breast cancer for some women, there’s nothing-absolutely nothing-supporting the claim that abortions cause breast cancer.

    I’ve heard just about everything under the sun being blamed as a cause for breast cancer.

    If anyone wants to look at the article I mentioned above, email me at I chose it because it was easy to read and (so you don’t need to speak medicalese to understand it) references some good studies for those of you that want to look further.

    Um…I’ll shut up now. /science nerd-librarian

  20. says

    Amy McCabe, it’s much appreciated! Thanks for the clarifications. I guess my doctors were advising me specifically (I’ve always been told I’m not particularly at risk for breast cancer). Besides in something as important as health info, the distortion of a truth is as bad as a lie.

    I recently came across a commenter asking how unhealthy it would REALLY be if women with PCOS had to do without bc pills, obviously hoping to be told, “Well, it would be inconvenient, but it wouldn’t kill them, so keep right on feeling good about your medieval stance, there!” Another commenter told them about the ovarian cancer and how deadly it is, and added that if Republicans really wanted us to be fully informed, and that’s all this is about, then shouldn’t doctors be required to tell women there’s a not insignificant chance of death with pregnancy and childbirth? That even if your life’s never in danger, a lot of shit can go wrong and maybe even have permanent consequences?

    I actually just think it should be left to doctors and patients. If a doctor is informing patients wrongly or not at all in any aspect of their care, yank that doctor’s license. But at no point is Congress better qualified to get into a dialog with me about my bc pills.

  21. Amy McCabe says

    The article above? It made a point that unwanted pregnancies have a higher mortality rate than the slight risk provided by this one specific pill (though not as blatantly as I would have liked).

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the pill that has been linked to breast cancer isn’t as commonly given out nowadays (though it once was) so the vast majority of people on “the pill” aren’t on this particular pill. Most brands now have much lower estrogen levels and have changed the progestin molecule (if they have it at all). The combo of the two was the problem.

    I was also pleased to see the exact reasons I was steered away from the pill myself, in this article (even though that wasn’t the main point).

    I found a free link of it here: (Just click on PDF.)

    I really truly believe half-truths and distortions are more dangerous than blatant lies.

  22. says

    And on top of all this–the Republicans are telling us to look at pocketbook issues, like the economy.

    So guess what! In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker has just signed a bill that makes it nearly impossible to sue for wage discrimination if you’re female.

    One Wisconsin legislator, whose name escapes me, said that it was more important for men to make the money, because they’re the breadwinners (totally ignoring the number of female-headed households).

    So we can see the writing on the wall even on the economy, can’t we?

    Glad we’re still able to vote. At least for now.

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