Democrat Mary Burke and Republican Scott Walker are locked in an extremely close battle for Governor; Walker presently holds the position. Women voters may sway Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race.
Walker took office in 2010. He immediately began tackling an agenda based on ideas from the radical right wing of the Republican Party. The majority of his aspirations were aimed at women.
His agenda included repealing a law which gave women equal pay. He worked to get cuts to the funding of Planned Parenthood. He signed a bill similar to Texas law which immediately caused controversy. Women seeking an abortion must first undergo an ultrasound. Doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The law virtually eliminates safe abortions for rural and poor women. He also signed a bill which prevents non-surgical abortions by the use of medications.
Both laws referring to the elimination of an unwanted pregnancy are in the Appeals Court, and therefore are not active at the present.
Walker also eliminated comprehensive sex education. In its place he instituted the teaching of abstinence. He attempted to cease insurance coverage for contraception and failed. However, he took action which blocked enforcement of the state law which requires insurance companies to pay for birth control.
While Walker is leading with men, Burke at one time led with women by as high as an 18 percent margin.
Walker refused funds for expanded Medicaid in Wisconsin, placing the state in debt for over $100 million, and resulted in 57,000 un-insured residents.
Midterm elections historically have a low voter turnout. If Burke wins, it will be the result of Democrat’s efforts to urge women to go to the polls. All of the issues with Walker’s agenda are high on the priority list of women.
At the center of objection by women’s groups is the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. Five clinics have been forced to close in the past year; 22 remain open, and only three offer abortions.
Women are openly calling Governor Walker a liar. He continues to use the claim from the extreme right that his intention is to create a safe environment for women as they make a difficult choice. The truth is that he has aligned himself with the religious right and is anti-abortion for any reason. In addition he does not believe in artificial contraceptive methods.
Women also point to Walker’s efforts to disband collective bargaining organizations for state employees. Female teachers outnumber males by a wide margin. Because of Walker’s action, teachers are making less money, and a percentage of them are single mothers. Walker survived a recall vote in 2012.
Whether or not he will survive in his bid for reelection in a couple of weeks is anybody’s guess. When all the issues are considered, his reelection would continue Wisconsin’s slide backwards in time. If women do not go to the polls in large numbers, they will find themselves living under laws similar to those their mothers and grandmothers endured. Women voters have the power to sway Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race; and they need to do it for themselves.
By James Turnage