Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Oklahoma Lawmaker Blasts GOP’s War On Women: ‘What Happened To The Republican Party That I Joined?’

In an op-ed published on Wednesday, an Oklahoma Republican sharply criticizes his fellow party members for focusing on enacting unnecessary legislation to limit women’s access to abortion and contraception. “What happened to the Republican Party that I joined?” state Rep. Doug Cox (R) wonders, pointing out that the mounting pile of reproductive restrictions represents a government intrusion into women’s personal lives.

Cox, who is a practicing physician, writes that the GOP-led pushes to eliminate women’s health resources don’t work in the “real world,” as the U.S. continues to face high rates of unintended teen pregnancy. Instead of expanding access to contraception to help address that reality, his fellow Republicans are working to do the opposite — pushing to eliminate Medicaid coverage for Plan B and allow pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions for any reason. The state lawmaker doesn’t believe those legislative priorities reflect the fundamental issues at the heart of the Republican Party:

What happened to the Republican Party that I joined? The party where conservative presidential candidate Barry Goldwater felt women should have the right to control their own destiny? The party where President Ronald Reagan said a poor person showing up in the emergency room deserved needed treatment regardless of ability to pay? What happened to the Republican Party that felt government should not overregulate people until (as we say in Oklahoma) “you have walked a mile in their moccasins”? [...]

What happened to the Republican Party that felt that the government has no business being in an exam room, standing between me and my patient? Where did the party go that felt some decisions in a woman’s life should be made not by legislators and government, but rather by the women, her conscience, her doctor and her God?

This isn’t the first time that Cox has spoken out against his party’s stance on women’s health issues. In February, when Oklahoma was considering additional abortion restrictions that would make it harder for minors to get an abortion without parental consent, Cox testified in opposition to the legislation. “We keep passing stuff like this, they’ll be done in back alleys with coat hangers, people,” he pointed out. At the same hearing, Cox also explained that, despite Republicans’ attempts to construe abortion care as inherently unsafe, abortion doctors don’t actually need to be burdened with additional regulations.

This year, Cox was the recipient of Planned Parenthood’s Barry Goldwater Award, which is presented to “outstanding” public officials in the Republican Party who have demonstrated their support for reproductive health issues. “As a highly regarded member of the Oklahoma State House, Rep. Cox has tirelessly and effectively argued against more than 160 anti-women’s health measures,” the women’s health organization noted.

But the other lawmakers in Oklahoma — a state that is already particularly hostile to women’s reproductive rights — have certainly kept Cox busy. Earlier this session, one state lawmaker advanced a measure that would allow employers to deny their workers birth control coverage for any reason. Another legislator has repeatedly pushed to outlaw all abortions and some forms of contraception with a “personhood” initiative that would endow embryos with the full rights of U.S. citizens. And just last week, in the wake of two deadly tornadoes that ravaged the state, the Oklahoma Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

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