Blog post

The Nation's Melissa Harris-Perry on the GOP and the attack on women's rights

Morgan Buck 3 March 2011

"American women may not yet recognize the war being waged on their future, but we must awaken to it immediately."

Writing today for the Nation, Melissa Harris-Perry brilliantly links the economic policy and rhetoric of the new GOP majority with their well-known "older social agenda committed to pushing American women out of the public sphere."

Harris-Perry argues that the war on women's rights has extended well beyond abortion laws, making connections to funding cuts for Planned Parenthood and Head Start programs, as well as to the elimination of birthright citizenship:

These may seem like disparate policy efforts, but they are not. They are the product of the ethnic and economic anxieties of conservative white Americans whose determination to "take our country back" has been a rallying cry since Barack Obama's election. Women's bodies and lives are the terrain on which this conservative movement is making its stand. 

[...] However shrouded in the language of fiscal austerity, the GOP's social agenda intends to undo these changes, forcing women back into the domestic sphere. While leaving abortion nominally legal, cuts to family planning services and the legalization of terror against abortion providers would create an environment of compulsory childbearing. Women who can't control their fertility will be unable to compete for degrees or jobs with their male counterparts. Likewise, without affordable childcare women would be less likely to work outside the home. And without basic rights to organize, women teachers, nurses and other public sector workers would be compelled to accept lower wages and harsher working conditions, shoving many women out of the workforce altogether. In the Republicans' future America, women will be encouraged to marry younger, to stay in difficult (even abusive) marriages and to rely on male wages.

For white women in particular, this would mean a retreat to the home, where they would be encouraged to bear more children so as to reclaim the racial character of the nation. Immigrant women, however, would be discouraged from having children. Hispanic women have had the highest fertility rates for more than a decade, but efforts to roll back birthright citizenship aim to deny their children access to public education and class mobility, leaving more space for the children of white Americans.

Visit the Nation to read Harris-Perry's article in full.