Now playing here: The Texas Two-Step on women’s health care issues

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t take care of other women”  — tough words from former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, words she uses so often that she calls them her motto.

Last week, all 11 Republican women in the state House of Representatives — Marilyn Avila, Rayne Brown, Debra Conrad, Julia Howard, Pat HurleyLinda Johnson, Michelle Presnell, Ruth Samuelson, Jacqueline Schaffer, Sarah Stevens, Rena Turner — voted in favor of last-minute amendments to the Motorcycle Safety Act which, if accepted by the Senate and signed into law by the Governor, will restrict a woman’s access to abortion and other health care services offered at the 16 clinics licensed here in North Carolina.

“This is really all about protecting the health and safety of women,” Rep. Ruth Samuelson said. “We are not out here trying to shut down every abortion clinic in North Carolina.”

But experience  tells us that bills directed at health and well-being are typically preceded by public debate with input from those in the medical profession and reports from state agencies which reveal a problem in need of correction, and after some deliberation.

Of course, there was none of that. As Rep. Rick Glazier said in his eloquent remarks on the House floor:

Of course, good reason exists as to why no legislative findings are in the bill—there is no record of evidence to support them.  As to the first provision, the record is stunning for its non-existence.  No testimony was adduced nor studies produced nor evidence of any kind presented in the Senate.  The goal there was to pass a bill with no notice and no record and they succeeded!

Here, in the House, at least we held a public hearing, but most of it was concerns raised by many, requests by the Secretary of HHS and her subordinates for long term review and study of dozen if issues before the bill should be heard, but no testimony except for a few brief 3 minute comments from the audience.  No medical evidence was requested; no studies introduced; and, absurdly, the committee that listened to the comments was not even the committee who subsequently heard the bill—a first I suspect in the annals of state governance.

Instead, the Republican women in the House willingly participated in and in some instances directed a partisan sneak attack reminiscent of what the good old boys in Texas have been doing to women there these past few years — so colorfully depicted by Mimi Swartz in her 2012 essay  “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives.”

There was a time in Texas (where Roe v. Wade originated) when family planning and women’s health issues weren’t partisan, Swartz said. “Regardless of their politics, both Democratic and Republican women used their power to advance the cause of family planning,” she wrote. But that changed dramatically in 2010,

. . . . when Republicans won 25 seats in the House, giving them a supermajority of 101 to 49 and total control over the law-making process. (The male-female split is 118 men to 32 women.) As the Eighty-second Legislature began, a freshman class of right-wing legislators arrived in Austin, determined to cut government spending—a.k.a. “waste”—and push a deeply conservative social agenda. At the same time, Governor Perry was preparing to launch his presidential bid, burnishing his résumé for a national conservative audience. It wasn’t a good time to be a Democrat, but it wasn’t a great time to be a moderate Republican either. Conservative organizations turned out to be as skilled at social media as your average sixteen-year-old, using Twitter and Facebook to chronicle and broadcast every move of the supposed RINOs. A climate of fear descended on the Capitol. “Most people in the House think we should allow poor women to have Pap smears and prenatal care and contraception,” an aide to a top House Republican told me. “But they are worried about primary opponents.”

Was it really all about protecting the health and safety of women, Rep. Samuelson?

We’ll never know. No one took the time to prove that true.


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