Republicans are not waging a war on women “just because” they want to restrict access to abortion and birth control, and focusing on such issues is an “insult” to women, said Carly Fiorina, co-chair of the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and chair of the American Conservative Union Foundation, in her remarks to CPAC on Saturday.
Fiorina, after calling herself “a proud pro-life woman,” said, “I accept and respect that not all women agree with me. … What I am not prepared to accept is that we are waging a war on women, just because we know that abortion at five months is inhumane to both mother and child.”
At both the state and national levels, conservative legislators are pushing for bans on abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation because of medically discredited claims that fetuses can feel pain by then. Only about 1 percent of all abortions happen after 20 weeks, and many of those are under tragic circumstances, such as when a complication is detected late in a wanted pregnancy. Such laws threaten to make pregnant women criminals and are considered a strategy to end access to safe, legal abortion care in the United States by overturning Roe v. Wade.
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“We are not waging a war on women simply because we believe there is no good reason for birth control to be free,” Fiorina continued, to tepid applause. While the Affordable Care Act mandates that birth control be available to women without a copay, that doesn’t mean “free”—it’s a benefit included in insurance plans for which women pay premiums.
Fiorina further claimed that unlike Democrats, Republicans don’t “insult” women by “thinking all they are about is reproductive rights.”
“All issues are women’s issues,” Fiorina said. “We are half of this great nation.” The CPAC crowd rewarded that line with enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation from some attendees.
Fiorina’s use of the word “insult” echoed controversial statements made by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), another CPAC featured speaker, who said in January, “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.”
Fiorina, who was considered one of the most powerful women in nation until being forced out, in 2005, as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, also said that the poor do not lack talent or ambition, merely “tools and opportunities.” She implied that Democratic policies are also insulting to poor women because “it is liberals who believe some know better than others what is good for you.”
Many speakers at CPAC this week have championed the need for greater “opportunity” or “jobs” for the poor, but few have offered specific ideas for achieving those goals other than the lower taxes and less government regulation that they claim will boost the overall economy.
While anti-choice views have certainly been expressed on the main stage of the nation’s largest conservative gathering, they haven’t been a major theme. Nor have women in general; most of the conference’s relatively few featured female speakers took the stage on Saturday, which is both International Women’s Day and the most sparsely attended day of the conference.