SAN JOSE, CA — Despite massive protests, abortion opponents pushed through yet more radical restrictions on women’s reproductive rights last week. House Republicans passed a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — a largely symbolic move destined for failure in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Early Monday morning, even as the capitol flooded with protesters, Texas Republicans approved a legislative package to force most abortion clinics out of operation. Other extremely restrictive bills are winding their way through Republican-dominated state legislatures.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) blasted the GOP’s continued assault on reproductive rights in an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress on Saturday. She noted the 20-week abortion ban was just the latest example of House Republicans’ priorities, which have included attempts to kill the Violence Against Women Act and to defund Planned Parenthood. Though House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) Congress has gone down in history as the least productive Congress since World War II, House Republicans have aggressively pursued anti-choice legislation in recent years. In response, Americans increasingly brand the GOP as a party of anti-woman extremists, which sunk the 2012 campaigns of several Republican candidates who were too blunt about their desires to restrict women’s access to health services. Women — even Republican lawmakers — have fled the party.
Since Republicans took the House in 2010, Pelosi explained, Americans are beginning to understand just how far beyond abortion the GOP’s war on women reaches:
I’ve been in Congress for 25 years. For 23 or 4 of them, I would go home or go across the country and tell people, “Forget abortion. They do not believe in contraception and family planning.” And people would say to me, “That can’t be true. If I thought it were true, I would never vote Republican again.” And it is true. Only when they took power two years ago, when they were going to shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood, did people understand how bad they were on the subject…It’s revealed them for who they are. So this is the fight. It’s a fight on family planning, contraception, as well as terminating a pregnancy and without having adequate protections for women in case of rape or incest, life of the mother. It’s so hypocritical…They don’t believe in government…except when it comes to the bedroom.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the sponsor of the abortion ban, originally planned to apply it only to women in Washington, DC, but was emboldened by the recently publicized horror story of backdoor Pennsylvania abortion provider Kermit Gosnell to impose the ban on all Americans. Pelosi dismissed this latest justification as a mask for “a poverty of ideas”:
This is what they do all the time…Everybody knows Gosnell is an atrocity. It’s really a ridiculous connection for them to make. But it’s what they do. No matter what their basis for it is, it’s still very harmful to women and families…But they have no agenda, so they have to go to cultural issues. So that’s what they’re about. They have a poverty of ideas. They just don’t exist. Besides which, they don’t believe in public-private partnerships, or government roles. So if that’s who they are, then what are they going to appeal to the public on? Exploiting a really tragic situation in Pennsylvania, and trying to make it a justification for a policy that is wrong no matter what they think.
Pelosi also dared Republicans to try to strike down the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, predicting an even stronger backlash against anti-abortion extremism:
I’m not sure that the Republicans actually want Roe v. Wade to be struck down. Their base does. But from their standpoint, they’ve had plenty of opportunities to strike Roe v. Wade. They have these parades every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but they have not acted in a way that would take it to the courts. Now, other people outside have their cases and all that. But President Bush, with a majority in Congress and a court inclined to strike down Roe v. Wade, he didn’t need to do it. And that should tell you something. They want the issue. Better to have the issue. Because if they strike it down they will have such a backlash in the country.
Pelosi also laughed off a letter issued by Priests for Life last week demanding she renounce her Catholic faith for “betraying and misrepresenting the Catholic faith” by supporting a woman’s right to choose. The congresswoman said she has no problem reconciling her faith with her pro-choice stance:
My faith is very deep and has been my whole life. I love my faith and my faith has nothing to do with whoever he is. The arrogance of it all! It’s like something ancient, medieval…The Church taught me as I was growing up that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live up to a moral standard. And I respect women’s judgment and values to do that. Whether this priest thinks his judgment should be another woman’s judgment is absolutely ridiculous to me. But nonetheless it’s what they say. I grant the Church where they are on abortion. That’s where they are, that’s where they have to be. But my faith isn’t about what their position is. My faith is about, Christ is my savior, the church is his church, and has nothing to do with Priests for Life…I wouldn’t even dignify whatever it is they said. It was a highly emotional statement that they made. If it were more intellectual I might have paid attention to it. He was acting hysterically.