Conservative Hostility To Women’s Rights Doesn’t Stop At Health Care


Amid a decades-long crusade against abortion rights and a more recent uproar over access to contraceptives, conservatives’ efforts to intrude upon women’s control over their own health care are well publicized. But the GOP of recent years has also demonstrated that women’s physical safety, economic security, and equal access to the workforce are increasingly low on the priority list. For the first time since its initial 1994 passage, the GOP has put up a fight against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. Republicans on both the state and national level have sneered at the need for laws that address the fact that women still earn only about 75 percent of what men do for performing the same jobs. Conservatives have rejected legislation to mandate paid parental leave – something every other economically advanced country in the world requires. They are skeptical about allowing women to serve in military combat roles despite an on-the-ground reality that already puts women in dangerous combat situations. And they are dismissive of an Equal Rights Amendment that would afford the same weight to sex-based discrimination that the 14th Amendment currently gives race-based discrimination.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act, First Passed In 1994, Is A Multifaceted Effort To Address Violence Against Women. From the Urban Institute: “In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (P.L. 103-322). This event marked a turning point in federal recognition of the extent and seriousness of violence against women, and a commitment to address the problem from the federal vantage point. […] The resulting Violence Against Women Act for the first time recognizes the common barriers to legal protection faced by women victims of violent crimes. The four subtitles within the Act—the Safe Streets Act, Safe Homes for Women, Civil Rights for Women and Equal Justice for Women in the Courts, and Protections for Battered Immigrant Women and Children—target domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and  protection against gender-motivated  violence.  The Act undertakes reform in legislation, rules of evidence, and the policies and procedures of law enforcement agencies and the courts. It creates new offenses and tougher penalties, mandates victim restitution, and begins system reforms that will, for example, shield victims during prosecution and increase consistency in sentencing. Recognizing that attitudinal change and knowledge are essential to practical implementation of legal reforms, VAWA authorizes support for prevention, education, and training and the development of systems for maintaining records on violent incidents and perpetrators and improving communication within the justice system.” [, 3/1/96]

Violence Against Women Act Has Twice “Been Reauthorized Without Much Fanfare.” From Mother Jones: “The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which first passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized twice since then, increased federal penalties for domestic violence and provided funding for groups and services that aid victims of domestic abuse. The bill hit the bipartisan sweet spot of being both tough on crime and oriented toward women’s rights. Usually it’s reauthorized without much fanfare.” [, 3/20/12]

In April 2012, Senate Passed Bipartisan VAWA Version That Extended LGBT, Native American, And Immigrant Protections. From CBS News: “In a rare election-year moment of bipartisanship, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on Thursday afternoon, legislation that gives women protections and recourse against violence and abuse. The bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 68 – 31. The vote was to reauthorize the measure, which first passed in 1994 and is credited with a 51 percent increase of victims reporting domestic abuse, for five years. VAWA provides services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. It also locks in money for testing roughly 400,000 rape kits that, according to Human Rights Watch, have gone untested. In addition, the Senate-passed measure provides protections for gay, lesbian and transgender couples, provides visas for undocumented immigrants who have been victims of abuse, and provides new authority for Native Americans officials in cases of abuse of Native American women by non-Native Americans. Republicans sought but failed to weaken these provisions through the amendment process.” [, 4/26/12]

  • All 31 Of The Bill’s Opponents Were Republican Men. [S. 1925, Vote #87, 4/26/12]

In May 2012, House Passed GOP Version Of VAWA That Left Out LGBT And Immigrant Protections. From CNN: “The House of Representatives passed the Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act on Wednesday, despite strong opposition from Democrats. The GOP version, passed 222-205, offers a stark contrast from the bill passed by the Senate in late April. […] The Violence Against Women Act was first enacted in 1994. It has been reauthorized twice since then with bipartisan support and very little controversy. That’s not the case this time around. The Senate approved a bill last month with bipartisan support, voting 68-31 with every Republican woman supporting the measure. That version expands coverage to offer services to more illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse. It also specifies that the law include gay, lesbian and transgender victims. Human Rights Watch released a report Wednesday showing immigrant farmworkers are especially at risk for domestic abuse and argued provisions in the Senate bill — not the House version – ‘would go some way toward fixing the problem and should be enacted.’ House Republicans oppose those changes, saying they are unnecessary because the law already covers all victims, and instead favor a narrower version of renewing the law.” [, 5/16/12]

  • House Version Also Left Out Senate’s Protections For Native American Women. From the Christian Science Monitor: “The House bill does not include a Senate provision that would allow Native American women to take American citizens who abuse them to court within the tribal legal system. Republicans say that the Senate measure is unconstitutional and replace it with a proposal that allows Native American women to apply for protection orders from local US courts. Democrats contend that without the Senate’s proposals, Native American women abused on an Indian reservation are often left without legal recourse.” [Christian Science Monitor, 5/16/12]

House GOP Says They’re “Waiting For The Senate To Fix Their Bill.” From The Hill: “House Republicans say they’ve yet to see any substantive negotiations on the legislation and are waiting for the Senate to fix their bill. Senate leaders, on the other hand, want the House to take up their version, which passed with bipartisan support and had the backing of most advocacy groups.” [The Hill, 6/23/12]

Fair Pay Laws

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Empowers Women And Others To Seek Redress For Discriminatory Pay When They Discover It – Not When It Starts. From the New York Times:

Lilly M. Ledbetter discovered when she was nearing retirement that her male colleagues were earning much more than she was. A jury found her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsden, Ala., guilty of pay discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the case, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the date that Goodyear first paid her less than her peers. The narrow majority rejected the argument that each subsequent discriminatory paycheck was a new violation of the law.

Courts around the country cited the decision hundreds of times as a reason for rejecting lawsuits claiming discrimination based on race, sex, age and disability, without regard to the underlying merits of the individual cases.

On Jan. 29, 2009, President Barack Obama affixed his signature to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, his first official bill as president. The legislation expanded workers’ rights to sue in this kind of case, and relaxed the statute of limitations, restarting the six-month clock every time the worker receives a paycheck. [, accessed 3/29/12]

  • Nearly All Republicans In The House And Senate Voted Against The Lilly Ledbetter Act. The House of Representatives passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 with 247 Democrats voting in favor and five voting against passage. Only three House Republicans voted in favor of the bill, but 172 voted against passage. The Senate passed the bill with 56 Democrats voting in favor and none voting against the bill. Only five Senate Republicans voted for passage, and 36 voted against it. [S. 181, Vote #37, 1/27/09; S. 181, Vote #14, 1/22/09]

Paycheck Fairness Act Would Have Strengthened 1963 Equal Pay Act To Help Prevent Wage Discrimination. From the Huffington Post: “Among other provisions, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has already passed the House, would ensure that a law already on the books — the Equal Pay Act of 1963 — is properly enforced. It would also make sure that women aren’t punished for seeking out information about what their male colleagues are earning in order to ensure they are being paid properly.” [, 11/17/10]

  • Chamber Of Commerce “Launched An All-Out Offensive” Against Lilly Ledbetter Act And Paycheck Fairness Act. From NPR: “On Friday, the House passed legislation that would dramatically increase the window of time during which employees can file claims for pay disparities. […] Members also approved a second labor and employment bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would allow workers claiming wage discrimination to seek punitive damages and make it easier to expand the pool of plaintiffs in class action cases. […] The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched an all-out offensive against the measures, saying they would be a boon to trial lawyers and undermine the rights of employers. ‘The bottom line for the business community is that we entirely agree in creating fair play in the workplace,’ says chamber spokesman J.P. Fielder. ‘But we oppose opening up the process to litigation that will hurt small businesses.’” [, 1/9/09]
  • Senate Republicans Blocked Paycheck Fairness Act In 2010. From CBS News: “Senate Republicans have succeeded in blocking a measure designed to reduce wage disparities between men and women. The 58-41 vote to take up the Paycheck Fairness Act fell short of the 60 needed to overcome GOP opposition. […] Republicans and business groups said the bill would expose employers to more litigation by removing limits on punitive and compensatory damage awards.” [CBS News, 11/17/10]
  • House Republicans Overwhelmingly Voted Against Passage Of Paycheck Fairness Act. The House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act in early 2009 with 246 Democrats voting for passage and three voting against passage. Only 10 Republicans voted for passage, but 160 voted against it. [H.R. 12, Vote #8, 1/9/09]
  • AEI’s Sommers: Paycheck Fairness Act Would “Perpetuate Falsehoods About The Status Of Women In The Workplace” And “Create Havoc In a Precarious Job Market.” From American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Christina Hoff Sommers: “[T]he bill isn’t as commonsensical as it might seem. It overlooks mountains of research showing that discrimination plays little role in pay disparities between men and women, and it threatens to impose onerous requirements on employers to correct gaps over which they have little control. […] The Paycheck Fairness bill would set women against men, empower trial lawyers and activists, perpetuate falsehoods about the status of women in the workplace and create havoc in a precarious job market. It is 1970s-style gender-war feminism for a society that should be celebrating its success in substantially, if not yet completely, overcoming sex-based workplace discrimination.” [New York Times, 9/21/10]

Wisconsin Republicans Repealed State-Level Equal Pay Act. From the Huffington Post: “A Wisconsin law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court was repealed on Thursday, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed the bill. The 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court. In November, the state Senate approved SB 202, which rolled back this provision. On February, the Assembly did the same. Both were party-line votes in Republican-controlled chambers. […]Women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make. In Wisconsin, it’s 75 cents, according to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health (WAWH), which also estimates that families in the state ‘lose more than $4,000 per year due to unequal pay.’” [Huffington Post4/6/12]

  • Wisconsin State Senator Said Wage Gap Exists Partly Because “Money Is More Important For Men.” From the Daily Beast: “‘The idea that pay discrimination is a myth is a myth in and of itself,’ says Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center. ‘Study after study has shown the exact opposite.’ [Republican state senator Glenn Grothman, a major driver of the repeal] doesn’t accept these studies. When I ran the numbers by him, he replied, ‘The American Association of University Women is a pretty liberal group.’ Nor, he argued, does its conclusion take into account other factors, like ‘goals in life. You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.’” [, 4/7/12]

In 2011, Minnesota Republicans Tried To Repeal State-Level Pay Equity Act. From the Minnesota Independent: “Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, has introduced another version of his bill to repeal the Pay Equity Act (PEA), a program started in the 1980s that ensures that women are paid a comparable wage to men in local government jobs. As of Thursday, when Drazkowski introduced his new bill, Republicans have authored four bills this session aimed at repealing the Pay Equity Act. Twenty-two Republicans in the House and Senate are sponsoring the legislation; 21 of the sponsors are men. The original repeal of the PEA was contained in a broader bill authored by Drazkowski that repealed a number of local government mandates; a similar bill is pending in the Senate. Senate Republicans then offered a standalone bill to repeal fair pay laws, and Drazkowski’s bill (HF698) introduced on Thursday brings the total tally of bills to four.” [, 2/24/11]

Paid Parental Leave

Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act Would Allow Federal Employees Four Weeks Of Paid Parental Leave. From the Washington Post: “Under the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, federal and congressional employees would receive four weeks of paid parental leave after birth or adoption, or taking in a foster a child. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would have the discretion to grant an additional four weeks of paid leave. Employees could still use accrued vacation days as part of their parental leave, and the bill would make it easier to use sick leave to care for a new child by eliminating the current requirement to demonstrate medical need.” [Washington Post, 6/20/08]

The Latest Version Of The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act Is Languishing In Committee. According to, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2011 was introduced in the House on February 10, 2011, and remains in committee. [, accessed 3/30/12]

In 2008 And 2009, House Passed Paid Parental Leave Act Over Republican Objections. The House of Representatives passed the 2008 version of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act with 228 Democrats and 50 Republicans voting in favor and 145 Republicans and one Democrat voting against the bill. In 2009, the House passed the bill with 234 Democrats and 24 Republicans voting in favor, and 149 Republicans and 5 Democrats voting against. [H.R. 5781, Vote #428, 6/19/08; H.R. 626, Vote #310, 6/4/09]

  • 2008 and 2009 Versions Died In Senate. According to, the 2008 version of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, introduced in the 110th Congress, died after passing the House, as did the 2009 version, introduced in the 111th Congress. [, accessed 3/30/12;, accessed 3/30/12]

Americans For Tax Reform: Paid Leave Is A “Bailout” For Federal Employees. From a statement on the 2009 version of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act from Americans for Tax Reform’s Center for Fiscal Accountability: “The Center for Fiscal Accountability urges all Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote NO on H.R. 626, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2009. This bill would extend four weeks of paid leave to federal employees following the birth, adoption or fostering of a child, and further authorizes the Director of the Office of Personal Management to subjectively extend the paid leave to eight weeks. At a time when taxpayers are footing the bill for a series of massive government bailouts and an unprecedented expansion of federal spending, and are struggling to make ends meet, asking them to bail out government employees who already enjoy a generous compensation and benefit structure is no less than a slap in the face. [, 6/4/09]

U.S. Is One Of The Only Countries Without Paid Parental Leave. From Reuters: “The United States is decades behind the rest of the world in parental leave policy, a Human Rights Watch report said on Wednesday. Of the 190 countries studied in the report, 178 guaranteed paid leave for new mothers and nine were unclear about their maternity policies. Just three countries clearly offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave — Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States.” [Reuters, 2/23/11]

Equal Rights Amendment

Enacting An Equal Rights Amendment Would Add A Constitutional Prohibition Against Gender-Based Discrimination. From the Washington Post: “The amendment consists of 52 words and has one key line: ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.’ That sentence would subject legal claims of gender discrimination to the same strict scrutiny given by courts to allegations of racial discrimination.” [Washington Post, 3/28/07]

The ERA Passed Congress In 1972 But Fell Three States Short Of Ratification At 1982 Deadline. From The Hill: “By 1982, the ERA had been ratified by 35 states, three short of the 38 needed to become an amendment. […] The ERA was first proposed in the 1920s, and Congress finally approved it in 1972.” [The Hill, 3/23/12]

Democratic Senators Have Proposed Lifting 10-Year Ratification Deadline To Allow Remaining Three States To Approve The ERA. From The Hill: “Nine Senate Democrats this week proposed that states be given another chance to ratify an amendment to the Constitution affirming the equal treatment of men and women, 30 years after the amendment fell just short of being added to the country’s founding document. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and eight other Democrats proposed a joint resolution that would remove the 1982 deadline for getting 38 states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).” [The Hill, 3/23/12]

  • Democrats Introduced A Similar Measure In The House. According to, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced H.J. Res. 47, which “eliminates the time limit for ratification of the equal rights amendment.” The measure has 32 co-sponsors, all Democrats. [, accessed 4/3/12]

Rep. Maloney Has Re-Introduced The ERA. From the Huffington Post: “The Equal Rights Amendment, which Congress passed in 1972 but has not yet been ratified by the necessary 38 states, simply says that equality under the law ‘shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.’ Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the legislation this year in hopes that it would finally become a part of the Constitution.” [, 3/22/12]

  • The House ERA Bill Has 185 Cosponsors, Nearly All Democrats. According to, Rep. Maloney’s bill (H.J. Res. 69) has 185 cosponsors. All but seven are Democrats. [, accessed 4/3/12]

GOP Rep. Hanna At ERA Rally: “My Side” Doesn’t “Speak Out On Your Behalf.” From the Huffington Post: “As the only Republican Congressman at a rally for the Equal Rights Amendment on Thursday, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) gave women an unexpected piece of advice: Give your money to Democrats. ‘I think these are very precarious times for women, it seems. So many of your rights are under assault,’ he told the crowd of mostly women. ‘I’ll tell you this: Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side — my side — has a lot of it. And you need to send your own message. You need to remind people that you vote, you matter, and that they can’t succeed without your help.’” [, 3/22/12]

AEI Scholar: ERA Is Unnecessary. From American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Christina Hoff Sommers: “[T]he ERA would have no good consequences–none–and many terrible ones. […] The ERA, first introduced in 1923, was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification in 1972. It says: ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.’ What could be fairer or more reasonable? But the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment already bans unreasonable state discrimination against women, while the Civil Rights Act and other federal statutes ban unreasonable private discrimination. A robust body of law has developed since the 1972 banning sex discrimination in jury selection, unemployment benefits, and family property law and promoting women’s progress in the workplace, sports, and other arenas. The new campaign has a different purpose: to ban reasonable forms of discrimination. By changing the constitutional standard from ‘equal protection’ to ‘equality of rights,’ the ERA would hand radical feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women and the National Women’s Law Center a powerful weapon to wage war on what they view as ‘the gender system.’” [, 4/3/07]

Women In The Military

Although Some Restrictions On Women In The Military Were Recently Lifted, Women Are Still Forbidden From Serving In Combat. From the New York Times: “Reflecting the steady but glacial evolution of the role of American women in war, the Pentagon took a small step Thursday and announced that women would be formally permitted in crucial and dangerous jobs closer to the front lines. But it stopped short of officially allowing women to serve in combat. The decision, the result of a yearlong Pentagon review ordered by Congress, allows women to be permanently assigned to a battalion — a ground unit of some 800 personnel — as radio operators, medics, tank mechanics and other critical jobs. […] The new rules keep in place a ban on women serving in the infantry, in combat tank units and in Special Operations commando units.” [New York Times, 2/9/12]

In 2011, Rep. Sanchez Introduced An Amendment To The Defense Budget That Would Have Removed Barriers To Women In Combat Units. From the Army Times: “Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, has prepared an amendment repealing the policy that prevents women from serving in front-line combat units in the Army and Marine Corps. The House is scheduled to take up HR 1540, the 2012 defense authorization bill, next week with plans to pass the $689 billion policy bill by Memorial Day. […] Her legislation, called the Women’s Fair and Equal Right to Military Service Act, cites ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as proof women are already serving in the thick of combat. […] Sanchez’s bill would repeal the ground combat exclusion from the law but would leave the date of any change to the Defense Department and the services, which are directed to come up with policies that ‘do not restrict members of the armed forces from assignments to units and positions based on gender.’” [, 5/20/11]

  • House Republicans Voted Down Sanchez’s Amendment. The House of Representatives rejected Sanchez’s amendment number 64 to H.R. 1540, with 218 Republican members voting against the bill and 15 voting in favor. Sixteen Democrats voted against passage, and 169 voted for it. [Amdt. 64 to H.R. 1540, Vote #369, 5/26/11]

Santorum Opposes Allowing Women In Combat Because It’s “Not In The Best Interests Of Men, Women Or The Mission.” From the Today show’s website: “‘When you have men and women together in combat, I think men have emotions when you see a woman in harm’s way,’[GOP presidential candidate Rick] Santorum told TODAY’s Ann Curry Friday. […] On CNN Thursday, he said that having women serve in combat was ‘not in the best interests of men, women or the mission.’ ‘(It’s) because of that reason of a sort of natural inclination to not focus on the mission because of the natural inclination to want to protect someone because it’s natural within our culture,’ he told Curry. Curry asked the former Pennsylvania senator whether he believes women are not capable of fighting alongside men in the fiercest parts of the battle. ‘No, that’s not the issue,’’ he said. ‘I’ve never raised that as a concern. The issue…is how men would react to seeing women in harm’s way or potentially being injured or in a vulnerable position and not being concerned about accomplishing the mission.’” [, 2/10/12]

FRC Senior Fellow: No Women In Combat; “Even The Most Homely Woman Gets Sexual Attention In Austere Settings.” From an op-ed in Human Events by Family Research Council senior fellow Robert Maginnis: “Let’s cut to the chase and deal with the real issue.  Feminists and their spineless male supporters won’t be satisfied until women are serving in every ground combat role, including infantry and Special Forces. […] Two factors are at play in mixed sex units.  There is the aspect that men are hardwired to protect women (Santorum’s view) and the matter of sexual attraction.  Both matter when building cohesive teams because favoritism and attraction enters the picture.  And yes, even the most homely woman gets sexual attention in austere settings. […] [I]f military women lack physical strength, aggression, threaten unit cohesion, and express no desire for ground combat assignments, then who is pushing for women in combat?  Civilian feminists view ground combat a glass ceiling for women’s equal opportunity.  They could not care less about our fighting ability or the precedent this sets for future women.” [, 2/14/12]

  • Maginnis Is A Senior Fellow At The Family Research Council. According to his bio on the Family Research Council’s website, Bob Maginnis is a Senior Fellow for National Security at the Family Research Council. [, accessed 4/4/12]

GOP Leaders Have “Reservations” About Women In Combat. From the Boston Herald: “Other leading Republicans, including Vietnam veteran and Senate Armed Services Committee member John McCain, have expressed deep reservations about opening all combat positions to women. McCain, who is traveling overseas, was not available for comment, according to his spokesman, Brian Rogers.” [, 2/23/12]

Seventy-Five Percent Of Americans Think Women Should Be Allowed In Direct Combat Units. From Quinnipiac: “American voters also support 75 – 22 percent allowing women to engage in close ground combat. Support is 70 – 27 percent among men, 79 – 17 percent among women and 67 – 29 percent among voters in military households. All party, age, income, religious and education groups support the measure.” [, 2/23/12]