Democrats in the Senate are pushing to renew and expand the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed after a bipartisan effort in 1994. The only problem is that Republicans are gearing up to fight them tooth and nail about it: “I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. What sort of matters might those be? Helping immigrant victims claim battery and expanding protection to same-sex couples. Oh, and failing to put in safeguards to ensure that domestic violence grants are being well spent—because obviously we wouldn't want those grants going to help gay or immigrant women!
According to the NY Times, the expansions to the VAWA would include efforts to reach women in Native American tribes and rural areas; it would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.
Do we need to spell out how unbelievably ridiculous and despicable it is for conservatives to fight against these improvements? Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Republican leadership, seems to understand what shaky waters Republicans are in: “Obviously, you want to be for the title. If Republicans can’t be for it, we need to have a very convincing alternative.” Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also seems to understand the potential fallout from the fight: in a closed-door Senate Republican lunch this week, she "sternly warned" her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as anti-woman.
And between the contraception battle, health care coverage struggles, the pre-abortion ultrasound bill, and now this, would it really be inaccurate to argue they are anti-woman? Even Fox News agrees! At the end of the day, either you believe women are human beings with rights to make their own choices—rights to autonomy, safety and equal protection under the law—or you don't. And by opposing expansion of the VAWA's protections to same-sex couples, immigrants, poor people and Native Americans—by opposing increasing the availability of free legal assistance to victims and expanding the definition of abuse to include stalking—they are saying the politics are more important than the issues.
Not all conservatives are worried about seeming anti-woman: the Times focuses on two women in particular who are urging Republicans to destroy the bill. Janice Shaw Crouse, a senior fellow at the conservative Concerned Women for America, called the legislation “a boondoggle” that vastly expands government and “creates an ideology that all men are guilty and all women are victims.” Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly went one further, saying the VAWA was a slush fund “used to fill feminist coffers;” she also claims the legislation promotes “divorce, breakup of marriage and hatred of men.”
But domestic abuse has nothing to do with hatred of men, and breaking up a marriage filled with abuse is a good thing. There is no ambiguity about abuse. So do Republicans hate Democrats (and Big Government) so much they're willing to put aside the unassailable horrors of domestic violence to prevent liberals from successfully passing legislation? Or do Republicans really not think all women are human beings?