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The GOP's Other War on Women: 5 Gender Battlegrounds Beyond Abortion and Contraception

Women care about more than birth control. From guns to poverty, here's why the party is doomed.

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Republicans are having a tough time shaking the “war on women” label, probably because they can’t stop themselves from sounding — and voting — like a bunch of raging misogynists. But when they do try to deflect this particular brand of sexism, it usually goes something like, “[Women are] more than just a set of reproductive organs, and I’d like someone to talk to me about how they’ll help my pocketbook and keep my health care plan that I like.”

Despite evidence to suggest that plenty of Republicans very much view women as a set of reproductive organs, this is verbatim what a Republican strategist told the New York Times last week in an attempt to challenge the idea that the GOP is a party of caveman bigots. It’s also what Mike Huckabee tried to communicate when he argued that the GOP opposes insurance coverage for contraception because it trusts that women can “ control their libidos.” Rand Paul — a man who a majority of conservative tastemakers believe should be the next president — views the GOP’s problem with women as something of a nonstarter, mainly because there are lots of them enrolled in his niece’s veterinary program.

And you can be sure that this is the message that the organizers of CPAC were shooting for with a panel called, “Why Conservatism is Right for Women: How Conservatives Should Talk About Life, Prosperity & National Security.” (Undercutting their pro-woman rhetoric was the fact that the conference only featured  a handful of women speakers on the main stage, and the organizers’ decision to go heavy on outdated cartoon villains like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter rather than relevant conservatives like New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.)

The Republican-led assault on basic medical care has had devastating consequences for women, transgender men and gender non-conforming people who need safe, reliable access to abortion, and there’s no doubt that it’s a losing issue with the voters that the party is ostensibly courting. But what changes when you “look beyond” reproductive health issues like contraception, abortion and access to maternal and prenatal care? Precisely nothing. The GOP remains, as ever, a party that appeals largely to white men and  married white women while falling further out of step with everyone else. While spitting vitriol about reproductive healthcare certainly alienates women voters and their allies, being vindictive about poverty, civil rights and other issues virtually annihilates the GOP’s chances of expanding its base.

Below, some of the battles in the GOP’s assault on women that don’t have to do with contraception or reproductive healthcare (though let’s be real, these issues are all connected):

Poverty. One in 3 women are living in or on the verge of poverty — nationwide, that’s 42 million women and 28 million children who depend on them. Black and Latina women face particularly high rates of poverty, and trans women — particularly trans women of color — are also disproportionally likely to live in poverty at some point in their lifetimes. So it seems pretty obvious that women would be paying attention when Republicans (aided in many cases by Democrats) slash food assistance programs at a time of record need.

Congress voted in February to cut $9 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over the next ten years, just two months after $11 billion had already been slashed from the program when a 2009 benefits increase expired. These reductions have cost families an average of $90 each month, a heavy hit for those already struggling to keep food on the table.

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