Elizabeth Warren’s Fight for Women vs. Scott Brown’s Faux Pro-Choice Stance

My home state of Massachusetts has never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate. But we have the chance to make history today by voting for Elizabeth Warren. Now I don’t vote for women merely because of their gender. Although I do believe we need more women in electoral office at all levels. But as the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” Warren has fought for working class and middle class families, students and seniors. And she will fight for women’s rights. Scott Brown wants you to believe he will too. He tells us over and over that he’s a pro-choice dude, a regular guy sporting a barn jacket driving a pick-up truck. See, ladies??? He must be one of us! Clearly he will work for us and fight for our rights. Um, no. Brown wants you to think he and Warren share the same views on women's rights, including equal pay and reproductive rights. But they couldn't be more different. Brown has repeatedly stated that Warren is wrong, that he IS pro-choice. Brown has run ads stating he’s pro-choice. One ad features Brown’s wife talking about how he would never not support women’s rights living in a house with women. (While he may be a great husband and father, isn’t this the same guy who tried to pimp out his daughters??) Just saying. In a recent ad, Laurie Myers, founder of Community Voices, a child protection and victim advocacy organization, vouches for his supposed “pro-choice” record. See ladies, other ladies say Brown is pro-choice...he MUST be! But Brown is far from pro-choice. Brown co-sponsored the Blunt Amendment, legislation allowing employers and insurance companies to deny health care coverage -- including birth control, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, in vitro fertilization, mammograms, cancer screenings -- due to any vague “moral objections.”  So pretty much anything at all. Brown wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which increases Medicaid coverage, allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance longer, eliminates insurance companies labeling domestic violence and C-sections “pre-existing conditions” to deny coverage, and eliminates co-pays for birth control, mammograms, and screenings for cervical cancer, diabetes, heart disease. Brown opposes federal funding of abortion (something that doesn’t actually occur thanks to the Hyde Amendment -- it’s a myth Republicans spread) and supports a “strong parental consent notification law.” He supported legislation allowing a “conscientious clause” for doctors and nurses to refuse emergency contraception to rape survivors. In 2005, Brown defended his emergency contraception stance on the Senate floor:
“Through our conversations, I’ve heard, ‘what if somebody has a sincerely held religious conviction about dispensing the emergency contraception medication? What about their rights? How do we address those?’ “…It’s not about the victim."
Wow. So the victim isn’t important?? I’m sorry but when we discuss rape, shouldn’t the victim be the only important person?? Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America endorse Elizabeth Warren. If Brown is truly pro-choice, why did he receive an endorsement from anti-choice Massachusetts Citizens for Life and earn an 80% rating from anti-choice National Right to Life Committee? Anne Fox, President of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life said:
“We consider him a senator who votes pro-life. We have to take his word for it when he says he is pro-choice. But what we’re looking for is someone who votes pro-life, and he does.”
Fox is right about one thing. We should all be watching how Brown votes. Brown also claims he supports equal pay like Warren. He often says he would have (shoulda, coulda, woulda) voted for The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. As great as that legislation is, it does NOT ensure equal pay for equal work. Rather it extends the statute of limitations to bring lawsuits against pay discrimination. So if Brown supports equal pay, he must have voted for it, right?? Nope.
“As a father and husband of women in the workforce, I believe strongly in fair pay, and employers who discriminate against women should be prosecuted aggressively. The bill before the Senate today was flawed and overreaching. It’s the right cause but the wrong bill. On the heels of last week’s dismal jobs report, the last thing we should be doing is putting more job-killing burdens on small businesses and employers. Instead, we should be focused on creating jobs for women who, like all Americans, have been negatively affected by the employment crisis.”
You want to talk about “burden?” How about the fact that the gender wage gap places an enormous burden on women. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. While African American women earn 64 cents and Latina women earn 56 cents. How can we say that we’re a country that embraces democracy where all people are created equal if people can’t even earn equal pay for equal work? And how can Scott Brown say he supports women’s rights when he doesn’t support equal pay? Now, I’m not saying Scott Brown hasn’t done anything good. He co-sponsored the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), advocates for veterans and was one of several Republicans to vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). In 2007, he voted for the creation of a buffer zone for protesters at abortion clinics. He denounced Todd Akin’s horrific “legitimate rape” comments and asked the GOP to “respect pro-choice views” and to not implement a constitutional ban on abortion. But for every pro-choice decision, Brown has made an equal number of choices restricting reproductive rights. He co-sponsored the Women’s Right to Know Act, a mandatory waiting period creating a barrier to abortion access. And while he eventually vetoed the Pence Amendment which would have cut funding for Planned Parenthood, in 2011 he voted for H.R. 1, a budget resolution which would have cut Planned Parenthood’s funding as well as eliminated the Title X family planning program. He voted to support federally funded abortion for women rape survivors in the military. But “he opposed a law that would give servicewomen access to privately funded abortions at military facilities. Because many servicewomen only have access to military facilities, blocking this measure effectively bans abortion for those women.” Part of a U.S. Senator’s job is to vote to confirm Supreme Court Justices. So who does Brown look up to? In the second debate in Lowell, MA, Scott Brown said Justice Antonin Scalia was his “model” Supreme Court Justice, the same judge who opposes Roe v. Wade and contraception access. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise as Brown also endorsed Paul Ryan as Vice President, a frighteningly anti-choice politician. Brown claims he’s an independent politician. But considering his voting record eroding reproductive rights, it feels like nothing more than empty posturing. Too often he's right in line with the anti-choice misogyny of the GOP. As The Prospect’s Amanda Marcotte astutely points out:
“As with Governor Romney, Brown clearly believes that positioning himself as a defender of women’s reproductive rights is a necessary minimum to be elected to statewide office in Massachusetts…Unfortunately for pro-choice voters, Brown’s idea of pro-choice doesn’t resemble the kind of broad support for women’s reproductive rights and health care access most of us think of when we wield the term. Brown has regularly chipped away at women’s reproductive rights without pressure from his own party: indeed, he acted to narrow reproductive rights even when he had to face off against his own party and didn’t stand to gain politically.”
When asked about women’s rights (including abortion, contraception and equal pay) in the 3rd Senate debate in Springfield, MA, Brown said he’s pro-choice and he’s long fought for women’s rights as he talked about his mother as a domestic violence survivor. In a brilliant and concise rebuttal, Warren said he Senate debates, Warren said:
“I have no doubt Senator Brown is a good husband and a good father to his daughters. But this is an issue that affects all of our daughters and granddaughters. And what matters here is how Senator Brown votes. So he’s gone to Washington and he’s had some good votes. But he’s had exactly one chance to vote for equal pay for equal work and he voted no. He had exactly one chance to vote for insurance coverage for birth control and other preventive services for women. He voted no. And he had exactly one chance to vote for a pro-choice woman from Massachusetts to the United States Supreme Court and he voted no. “Those are bad votes for women. The women of Massachusetts need a senator they can count on not some of the time but all of the time. I want to go to Washington to be there for all of our daughters and all of granddaughters. This one really matters. There’s a lot at stake here. “…I am a mother of a daughter and grandmother of granddaughters and this is about their future. I want to be blunt. We should not be fighting about equal pay for equal work and access to birth control in 2012. These issues were resolved years ago until the Republicans brought them back.”
Elizabeth Warren is right. Scott Brown doesn’t want you to look at his voting record. He wants you to take his word that he’s pro-choice, an advocate for women. As one of my favorite actual advocates for reproductive rights would say, “What a bunch of malarkey.” And Warren's right again when she says we shouldn't still be fighting for equal pay or birth control or abortion. Despite what they say, the GOP, including Scott Brown, don't want women to have equal rights. If a politician like Scott Brown says their pro-choice enough times, or Mitt Romney says he’s a moderate, many people will believe their hollow promises. But actions speak louder than words. Warren boldly stood up to Washington to protect people’s financial rights. And she will do the same for our reproductive rights too. Even if you don’t live in Massachusetts, the Warren/Brown Senate race impacts the rest of the country. The party that will control the U.S. Senate rests in the hands of Massachusetts voters. In the very first debate, Brown told Warren to “stop scaring women.” But women across the country should be scared if Elizabeth Warren doesn't win tomorrow’s election. The GOP continues to wage its ongoing War on Women. They won't stop until they eradicate all reproductive rights. Despite what he says, Scott Brown has towed the party line, turning his back on us far too many times. While abortion, contraception and other reproductive rights don’t trump other issues, it makes me wonder. If we can’t depend on politicians to uphold basic human rights of bodily autonomy -- to trust us to make decisions about what’s right for our own bodies -- what hope do we have they will ever protect any other rights? Scott Brown's faux pro-choice stance is no substitute for the real thing.   Photo credit Jacqueline Sarah on Flickr via the Creative Commons License.

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