On March 12, Democratic Perspective began a series on the War on Women. Our first guest for the series was the interim Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, Harriet Young. Harriet has taught American politics and institutions at Northern Arizona University since 1992. She is president of the Flagstaff Branch of the American Association of University Women. She has worked for the Coconino County Democratic Party. And recently, she was honored by Planned Parenthood for her work to help elect pro-choice candidates for public office.
We began our interview by asking Harriet about the current controversy over contraception and Planned Parenthood. “Planned Parenthood lets women manage their own lives,” she replied. “Control of reproduction equals political freedom. Of course, women also have the freedom to not use contraception. They’re free to make their own decisions about contraception and not listen to Catholic bishops.”
She said that the decision to make employer health insurance plans pay for contraceptives, even those for Catholic organizations, is justified. “Catholic institutions such as universities and hospitals are filled with non-Catholic women,” she noted. “They include technical fields staffed by highly trained women.”
Young said that the problem goes much deeper. “Republicans are redefining rape and denying health care to women,” she said. “Who benefits? Why should poor people have to choose between sex and pregnancy?”
When asked why more women aren’t outraged, Harriet responded, “You weren’t at the event last Thursday night. There were hundreds of women and men who got together to raise funds for Planned Parenthood and they were very vocal about the issues. I can tell you, women will be engaged in the elections.”
She labeled the attempts to control reproductive freedom as a Republican political ploy. “The two-person family income has been necessary for decades,” she said. “That also made contraception necessary. But in the 70s, Paul Weyrich, Pat Robertson and others decided there weren’t enough conservatives to win elections so they created a marriage between religious conservatives and the GOP. That has led to the nonsense we see today.”
“We’re seeing 13th century standards pushed by Santorum and Gingrich,” Young continued. “Conservatives and religion didn’t like women’s lib, so they’re trying to roll back the clock. Gingrich even wants to roll back child labor laws,” she said.
Harriet cited yet another troubling policy of Republican politicians. “They’re cutting headstart programs,” she said. “Since both parents often need to work, that creates a long-term societal problem. We know that children’s brains are formed by interaction. Without that the kids never catch up.”
“Republicans are even going after the elderly poor, two-thirds of which are women,” she said. “They’ve cut funding for Meals on Wheels. It’s part of the Tea Party philosophy of pitting what they consider the deserving (the wealthy) against the undeserving (the poor).”