Full disclaimer: Yes, I originally helped pitch in on the “Hey Girl It’s Paul Ryan” tumblr. No, I do not support any political candidate. (Ironic take on political idolatry? Anyone?) What I like is good policy, and that is why I feel compelled to refute several blanket statements about Paul Ryan’s “war on women.”
What can I say? I’m just a big-mouthed woman.
The first concern is that Paul Ryan voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which presumably addresses the alleged 77 cents to a dollar discrepancy between equal work from women and men, respectively. This is not technically true – what the act does is extend the amount of time it is acceptable to submit an equal-pay lawsuit. Further, it is becoming easier and easier to refute the reality of a decades-old hackneyed political play; Ramesh Ponnuru of Bloomberg News posted this week about the statistical flaws in analyses that claim such a stark discrepancy. He cites economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth’s book “Women’s Figures,” which uses Labor Department figures that for 40-hour work weeks, women make at least 87 percent what men do. Another study by consulting company Consad, hired by the Labor Department, demonstrates that factors such as part-time work, employment gaps, and lower-paying fields account for the entirety of this gap. Whichever it is, the case is neither as severe nor as institutionalized as opponents of Ryan would have you believe.
The second concern is that Paul Ryan opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest. (Also for the record, I am pro-choice.) The allegation appears to be “He’s supported a bill to allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortion care to a woman, even if she could die without it.” The referenced bill appears to be House Bill 358: the Protect Life Act, which Ryan voted for. It passed the House, and is waiting to be heard by the Senate, FYI – so it hasn’t been enacted. Why? Because it’s an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which may still be overturned entirely. The bill would “prohibit federal funds from being to [sic] used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services.” So even if our new health care system remains, this bill is not an opposition to abortion in the case of rape or incest – neither of which would be necessarily emergency situations, as those involved would surely be aware of the problem right away. It refers to the proper use and protection of federal funds, which is not quite the same thing.
The third concern is that Paul Ryan wants to abolish Planned Parenthood. It is true that Paul Ryan wants to get rid of federal funding for Planned Parenthood. See, here’s where there’s just a fundamental disconnect between me and these tweeters. They think that as soon as something is big, it needs to be federally funded to keep going. I say, it got big because it fulfills a demand in the marketplace without help – and maybe Ryan is right that “it’s not worth borrowing from China to keep supporting Planned Parenthood.” It’ll be fine on its own – and if it’s not, then clearly people aren’t using it anymore. That’s the whole point of these things existing – to help people, not some privileged, bureaucratic institution.
The fourth concern is that he would somehow “criminalize” birth control. This I have scoured the internet for evidence of, but the closest I could find to coherence was simply that he doesn’t support the individual mandate concerning women’s health care and abortofacients. While I certainly get irritated with “holier-than-thou” attitudes towards young women who are being proactive and protecting themselves, I also understand that subsidizing them will make them dependent and passive about their sexual health, which countless women have combatted for decades. And it would take that money from men with prostrate cancer and kids with diabetes and women who practice abstinence, and absolutely everyone else who isn’t using the treatment. The former is bad policy and anti-feminist; the second is bad policy and really selfish, too.
The point here is not, Isn’t Paul Ryan great? Politicians on either side of the aisle often vie for election season more than their electorate’s interests. The point is that unchallenged reasoning shouldn’t satisfy any true proponent of women’s rights – The movement is about women being heard, not gagged, so don’t settle for anything less.