When House Republican men bullied their latest anti-women’s health bill through the Judiciary Committee, they were mocked for having no Republican women on the committee and for refusing to make allowances to protect the health of women or victims of rape or incest.
On Friday, House Republican Leaders quietly replaced Rep. Trent Franks with Rep. Marsha Blackburn as the floor manager of the bill when it comes up for debate tomorrow and added a limited exception, with onerous requirements, for victims of rape or incest. From Steve Benen, MSNBC:
If Franks has become a lightning rod for controversy, then it certainly makes sense to replace him with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) – though it’s still the bill he wrote, sponsored, and pushed through the committee process, so no one should be fooled into calling it Blackburn’s bill.
And including rape and incest exceptions might make the proposal slightly less offensive in a culture-war context, but problems remain. For one thing, the bill would require a woman to prove that she has reported her rape before she can exercise her constitutional right to terminate the unwanted pregnancy. For another, Franks’ original version also banned abortions in “medically futile pregnancies,” involving fetuses so badly compromised that they have no chance of survival. If this provision remains intact, it’s still intended to force women to carry such pregnancies through to the doomed birth.
House Republicans are replacing Mr. Franks with an even more conservative Republican in Congress. Ms. Blackburn ranked #3 in the most recent National Journal annual list of most conservative members of Congress, behind former Rep. Todd Akin (“legitimate rape”) and Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA). For comparison: Rep. Trent Franks ranked 78th. Just two weeks ago, Ms. Blackburn told Meet the Press that American women “don’t want” equal pay laws. From Donna Brazile, CNN:
GOP aides now say Rep. Marsha Blackburn will be managing Franks’ anti-abortion bill. Given her record – “no” votes on major equality or women-protection legislation and “yea” for issues like ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood – that’s hardly an improvement.
Since 2011, House Republicans have voted at least nine times to restrict women’s choice. Meanwhile, the American people are still waiting for the GOP plan to create jobs here at home. More from Benen:
Making the legislation slightly more palatable to the American mainstream, and removing the offensive lawmaker from his role in championing his bill publicly, is predicated on a dubious assumption: that this is what the House of Representatives should be working on right now. It is, in other words, the best use of lawmakers’ time.
It’s really not. We’re talking about legislation that’s probably unconstitutional, has nothing to do with the nation’s top priorities, and can’t pass the Senate anyway, making the entire effort a vanity exercise intended to make the far-right feel better about itself. [6/17]
Bottom line: Putting a woman in charge of a bill that restricts women’s health choices does not make it less of an assault on the rights of American women. And wasting time on an ideologically motivated, dead-end bill to pacify the Tea Party caucus does not create jobs for the American people.