The media misrepresents the Tea Party as a libertarian movement solely interested in economic issues, but actions speak louder than words. By introducing legislation to police women’s uteruses and eliminate all funding for family planning, HIV screenings, and sex education, newly elected Tea-Partiers demonstrate that their primary aims coincide with those of the Christian right. Amanda Marcotte explains this very well:
It must have been quite a surprise, then, to have the new Republican-dominated House of Representatives, which rode in on a sea of Tea Party energy and funding, to immediately put most of their efforts into controlling the uteruses of America, through a series of bills that would defund Planned Parenthood, end all private insurance funding for abortion, and even allow doctors to refuse to save the lives of pregnant women if doing so would require performing an abortion.
Ruth Marcus wryly observes that
House Republicans voted to increase the number of abortions, raise federal health-care costs and swell the welfare rolls…
The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that Title X helps prevent nearly 1 million unintended pregnancies annually. The institute says these pregnancies would otherwise result in 433,000 unintended births and 406,000 abortions.
The inevitable result of eliminating Title X funding would not only be more abortions – it would also be higher bills for taxpayers footing Medicaid and welfare costs for poor children. Guttmacher found that every public dollar invested in family planning care saves $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures for pregnant women and their babies during the first year of care. Imagine the lifetime savings.
And then there is the other “important work” that Pence cited: 2.2 million Pap smears, 2.3 million breast exams, nearly 6 million tests for sexually transmitted infections.
Hardly a way to trim the budget. The GOP has gone further down the dark road of Christian extremism. This top Tea Party agenda is deliberately designed to keep disempower women by keeping them poor, pregnant, and too burdened by children to go to work in the public sector.
As Marcotte notes,
What the Beltway media have failed to understand is that there are two Tea Parties: there’s the “Astroturf Tea Party”, the well-funded machine pushing a message of absolute rejection of all social spending; and then there’s the grassroots Tea Party, the everyday conservatives who actually show up at rallies, who demand to see the president’s birth certificate, and who oppose government spending while also demanding that no one touch their Medicare. Those folks are the voters, and Republicans know they must be fed. And those folks aren’t opposed to the religious right, since they are, to a large extent, the same as the religious right…
…as recent research by the Pew Forum demonstrates, Tea Party voters are far more socially conservative than the general public, and more socially conservative than the overall Republican party. Sixty-nine percent of voters who identified with the religious right also identified with the Tea Party. Unsurprisingly, 64% and 59% of Tea Partiers opposed, respectively, same-sex marriage and legal abortion, compared to 49% and 42% of the public at large.
Interestingly, the religious right has long had a theory that ties together their desire for a more theocratic state and the rhetoric of “small government” – or at least, ties together their anti-feminism with the small government rhetoric. The idea is that God has set gender roles for men and women, where women stay at home dependent on men. Feminists, the thinking goes, use social spending and reproductive rights to keep women from becoming dependent on men, which upsets God’s plan for women. So, in order to return to the natural order of male dominance – which they currently call “complementary roles” – the government should not only deny women reproductive rights, but also cut off social spending in order to force women become dependent on men. No healthcare, no welfare, no spending on education that gets kids out of the home and allows women to work outside of it. And now, of course, no spending on contraception that allows women to delay marriage and limit family size, preserving their independence.