Huckabee’s Birth Control Jab Only Serves to Turn Off Female Constituency

Kirstin+Bunkley%2FThe+Observer

Kirstin Bunkley/The Observer

By KAMRUN NESA
Asst. Opinions Co-Editor and Copy Editor
Published: February 12, 2014

We still have a couple more years until the United States. goes into a frenzy for the 2016 Presidential Election, but we already have potential candidates—well, mostly Republicans—putting their foot in their mouths while trying to appeal to Americans. It seems as if, while trying to promote their own political philosophies, they’re only further alienating themselves from the general public, whether it’s New Jersey Governor Chris Christie misleading the public by feigning ignorance about the George Washington Bridge lane closures or Texas Senator Ted Cruz pledging “no amnesty” on immigration reform.

Kirstin Bunkley/The Observer
Kirstin Bunkley/The Observer

Unfortunately for the Republicans, these weren’t the last displays of their political ineptitude. On Jan. 23, during a Republic National Committee meeting to discuss the gender gap, presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee tried to appeal to women by calling them strong and independent, but in the same vein, also claimed that they cannot “control their libidos” if they have to receive federally-funded birth control from “Uncle Sugar.”

Upon hearing Huckabee’s speech, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund released a statement saying, “Birth control is basic, preventive health care for women. It helps women plan their pregnancies and manage their lives, and many women use it for a variety of other medical reasons. […] The fact that Mike Huckabee doesn’t understand what birth control does is a perfect illustration of why decisions about birth control should be left to a woman and her doctor, without interference from politicians.”

To suggest that federally-funded birth control is like permitting promiscuity only belies the fact that Huckabee is completely ignorant when it comes to this issue. In fact, based on a study conducted by Guttmacher Institute in November 2011, 58 percent of women who use birth control use it for other medical reasons besides pregnancy prevention, and about 762,000 women who use it have never even been sexually active, which immediately crosses out Huckabee’s concern for overactive libidos.

Just because the government is willing to dole out assistance to women, and women are willing to accept it, does not insinuate that they are damsels in distress who are in need of some knight in shining armor or an “Uncle Sugar,” as Huckabee put it. In many cases, government assistance isn’t enabling women to be idle and be “a victim of their gender” but rather, providing them with the foundation to rise up and be independent. Democrats aren’t force-feeding them the pills, but giving them an inch so that they can take a mile.

Essentially, Mike Huckabee implied that any group who needs assistance or is given more rights is too weak to take care of themselves. Huckabee may as well have said that, by pushing for more jobs and an increase in the minimum wage, Democrats are suggesting that Americans are too inept and unqualified to find work themselves or get a job that pays more money.

By making contraception more available, Democrats aren’t taking away women’s independence but giving them more of it. Women who did start families early—perhaps because they couldn’t afford birth control—typically do not have strong academic backgrounds and, therefore, are at a disadvantage when it comes to securing good and competitive jobs. This is not to say that birth control automatically guarantees a good education and career, but it does give women a sense of control over their reproductive organs, as well as the ability to decide when to start a family.

Considering Republicans have a small female voter base, Huckabee was trying to convince Republicans to do more to change that while simultaneously convincing women that Republicans, unlike Democrats, don’t want to coddle them, but empower them to take care of themselves. That plan, however, only backfired because not only are Republicans dissatisfied with him, but he may have potentially managed to shirk off the few female proponents that Republicans had. The Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus, who had initially held the meeting to discuss how to appeal to female voters, chastised Huckabee for his choice of words. Not to mention, according to CBS News, many other Republicans expressed discontent because his speech took the spotlight away from other speeches concerning women as well as a “Rising Stars” forum that showcased five up-and-coming female Republican leaders.

Huckabee may have tried to backtrack and argue that his grudge is against Democrat treatment of women rather than birth control, but the damage has already been done. His comments about Democrats taking advantage of women’s reproductive issues only made Democrats look more caring and understanding towards women. While Huckabee may have had noble (although misguidedly so) intentions, it seems that he may have just nipped the Republican Party’s chances of increasing their female support in the bud.