Memo to reporters: Scott Walker's Extreme Position On Women's Health

Oct 07, 2014

To: Interested Reporters
Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014
From: Melissa Baldauff, WisDems Communications Director (414) 367-7350; melissab@wisdems.org 
Re: Memo to reporters: Scott Walker’s Extreme Position On Women’s Health 

With the governor’s race in a dead heat, and Wisconsin ranked dead last in the Midwest in private-sector job creation as he failed at his central campaign promise of 2010 to create 250,000 new private sector jobs, Scott Walker is now shamelessly pandering to women voters with a dishonest television ad that completely misrepresents his extreme history of restricting women’s rights.

While calling himself “100% pro-life,” Walker misrepresents his actions as governor as having given women more information on their healthcare choices and increasing safety measures for women seeking safe, legal abortions.

The fact is, Walker’s anti-abortion legislation wasn’t about patient safety or supporting women’s choices – it was about restricting women’s rights in order to appeal to the most radical, far-right element of the Republican Party. Walker’s legislation that mandates medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds and the reading of a state-authored shaming script was opposed by medical professionals in organizations like the Wisconsin Medical Society, WI Academy of Family Physicians, Wisconsin Public Health Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 

To be sure, Scott Walker is trying to distort this extreme record because he knows how poorly other Republicans have fared with women voters. Even Republican women rejected extremists like Todd Akin, who ridiculously claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant by their rapists because the female body “shuts that whole thing down.”

But video of Walker speaking at an editorial board in 2010 removes all doubt about what Scott Walker believes. An overwhelming majority of Americans – more than 70 percent – support access to legal abortion in cases of rape or incest; however, Walker in the 2010 video confirmed that he opposes all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, leaving Walker well outside of the mainstream.

While the video itself may be a new revelation, Walker’s beliefs are not. In 1998, then-Rep. Scott Walker co-authored a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s health was in jeopardy, with a penalty of life imprisonment for physicians who performed the procedure. The bill also defined a “child” as the fetus “from the time of fertilization until it is completely delivered” – the very same language used by “personhood” advocates who hold the scientifically-debunked belief that birth control is an abortifacient. “Personhood” legislation would criminalize all abortions and would even outlaw common forms of birth control and fertility treatments.

And in 1998, 1999 AND 2001, Walker was the lead author of a Wisconsin Right to Life bill known as the “conscience bill” which allowed doctors and pharmacists to refuse to prescribe and dispense contraceptives.

As we see our rights under continued attack, it is important to remember the backwards steps that women in Wisconsin have taken under Scott Walker in his pursuit of an extreme social agenda. 
Women’s health clinics have been shuttered. Access to basic health care services like mammograms and cervical cancer screenings has been curtailed. Pay equity protections have been gutted. Jobs have been lost in a way that hurts women disproportionately. 

That’s because instead of focusing “like a laser” on jobs, Scott Walker has focused on divisive and radical legislation to restrict the rights of women to make personal healthcare decisions.

This is despite the fact that Republicans nationally, and here in Wisconsin, have a problem with women voters and recent polls indicate it’s getting worse. By a margin of more than two-to-one, women believe that the Republican Party is drifting further away from their perspective as opposed to moving towards it.  

That trend is reinforced with a new report commissioned by Karl Rove and other right-wing groups called “Republicans and Women Voters: Huge Challenges, Real Opportunities.” The report is derived from eight focus groups of women around the country following the GOP’s multiple failed attempts to reach out to women – including a “how to talk to women” seminar for elected officials and Congressional staffers – and close the widening gender gap.

According to the findings, female voters view the Republican Party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion,” and “stuck in the past” – with the Party faring “especially poorly” among women in the Midwest. The report also found that women oppose restrictions on health care access and support affordable health care and pay equity protections.

Although investing in women’s health and preserving their rights to make personal medical decisions should be a non-partisan issue, Scott Walker and his Republican legislature voted along party lines to completely defund Planned Parenthood, threatening access to critical preventive healthcare like breast and cervical screenings.  

The elimination of state funding to Planned Parenthood disrupted services at nine family planning and healthcare centers in Kenosha, Winnebago, Eau Claire, Shawano, Wood, Chippewa Falls, Dodge, Fond du lac, and Jefferson Counties. In 8 of the 9 counties, Planned Parenthood was the only family planning provider.

In addition to losing massive amounts of funding for key health centers and family planning services across the state, five Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin health centers were forced to close in Fond du Lac, Shawano, Chippewa Falls, Beaver Dam, and Johnson Creek. 

The five health centers closed due to Scott Walker’s policies provided birth control counseling and options, lifesaving cervical and breast cancer screenings, annual exams, STD testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, HIV testing, and well woman exams. 

Walker’s first budget also proposed the repeal of Wisconsin’s 2009 Contraceptive Equity law, which required all insurance policies that contain a prescription drug benefit to cover prescription contraceptives. Since most Wisconsin residents get their health insurance through their employers, workplace equality demands that women have coverage for all the prescriptions they need, including birth control. Access to birth control hasn’t been a remotely controversial issue in decades — 99 percent of women will use birth control in their lives. [1]

Scott Walker can try to misrepresent his beliefs, and try to avoid talking about his ideologically driven War on Women, but he can’t run away from the facts – Scott Walker is an extremist on women’s issues and is far outside the mainstream when it comes to birth control and access to safe, legal abortion. And Wisconsin women won’t forget it in November.

[1] 99 percent of women aged 15-44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. Daniels K, Mosher WD and Jones J, Contraceptive methods women have ever used: United States, 1982–2010,National Health Statistics Reports, 2013, No. 62, <http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr062.pdf>, accessed September 3, 2014.