The last two years have been a revealing time in American politics. Republicans, who retook the House of Representatives under the Tea Party’s banner, have been doing their best to remind the American people just how radical their Party has become.
We’ve gotten a glimpse of this neo-neo-conservativism during recent debates over women’s access to contraception and the firestorm that erupted around Rush Limbaugh’s attempts to use sexist language and offensive imagery to demean female opponents. In both cases, Representative Nan Hayworth has been on the wrong side; she won’t condemn Limbaugh’s hateful speech and believes women need permission slips from their employer to have equal access to birth control. Women had made so much progress, from Griswold and Roe to Title IX and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, that it’s easy to forget that this progress is under attack every day. This Republican “War on Women” started long before Hayworth helped put John Boehner and Eric Cantor in charge, but it needs to end now.
Nan Hayworth ran for Congress here in the Hudson Valley two years ago as a pro-choice moderate because it was the only way she could win. Whether in Orange, Dutchess, Putnam, or Westchester, her message was the same: that she and Rep. John Hall weren’t that different on women’s issues. But a funny thing happened on Hayworth’s way to Washington. When she arrived at the capital, she toed the Tea Party line, and her pro-choice principles went MIA.
Hayworth pretends that this is about government funding, but that’s bogus. It’s a direct assault on choice and women’s rights. One of her first votes in the House was to make it all but financially impossible for insurance companies to cover abortion; that vote would have also dramatically increased the cost of reproductive care for individuals who purchase it for themselves. She voted to defund Planned Parenthood – and didn’t say a peep when Komen tried to do the same. Either you’re pro-choice or you’re not, and Nan Hayworth’s voting record says loud and clear that she’s not.
What really shocked me was her vote for HR 358 last fall, the “let women die act.” This bill would have let doctor’s deny women life saving reproductive care if the doctor personally didn’t want to provide it. The idea of forcing a woman suffering severe medical complications to run from hospital to hospital until she could find a doctor to treat her is unconscionable. One Congresswoman, California's Jackie Speier, said that this bill might very well have killed her.
Both Nan and I are doctors. When we started out in this profession, we both swore to “first, do no harm.” I would never turn away a patient who was seriously ill, and that’s why I get so incensed when I hear that Nan would have let doctors do just that. Rather than keep her oath as a doctor and her pledge as a Congresswoman to represent our community, she pandered to Republican Party leaders and high dollar conservative donors. That’s absolutely disgraceful.
We need a Congressperson who is fundamentally pro-women, and who will always put the Hudson Valley first. Nan Hayworth’s actions and votes make clear that she is not that Representative. One week ago, I joined several dozen local residents outside of her office to tell her that her Tea Party extremism just won’t fly anymore. That was a clarion call from everyone who is fed up with this obstructionist, out-of-control 112th Congress and its “War on Women,” and it’s a call Nan will be hearing loud and clear between now and November.
Dr. Richard Becker is a Town Councilman in Cortlandt, NY, local small business owner, and Democratic candidate for Congress in the new 18th District
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