Here’s an interesting fact from last week’s Republican primary in Michigan: Although Rick Santorum recently led Mitt Romney by as much as 15 points in the polls, he ended up losing by a three-point margin. And a huge part of that 18-point swing came courtesy of women voters. In fact, if only men had voted in the primary, Santorum would have come within one percentage point of besting Romney. But alas, due to that pesky 19th Amendment to the Constitution, women also showed up at the polls, and they favored Romney by six points.
So what does any of this have to do with the Old Dominion, you ask? Well, perhaps nothing. But consider this: In the week leading up to the GOP’s Michigan showdown, Virginia’s retrograde Republicans made quite a splash on the national scene, and not in a good way.
Hundreds of people marched on the State Capitol in Richmond, Saturday, March 3, to protest a series of controversial measures dealing with women’s reproductive rights being considered in the General Assembly this session. The protesters were met by Virginia State Police dressed in riot gear, and by the end of the day, 31 people had been arrested for demonstrating against the legislation, which includes a bill that would force any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before receiving the procedure. (Photo by Scott Elmquist)
If you remember, the last time we visited our friends in Richmond they were hard at work debating a number of controversial measures, including a bill that would endow a fertilized egg with all the rights of a “person” under the law, and a bill that would force any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before receiving the procedure.
It was this last measure, with its grotesque use of an invasive medical procedure as punishment for seeking a perfectly legal operation, that really caught the media’s attention. And the elephants in the Assembly certainly didn’t help themselves by treating the entire issue as an opportunity for sophomoric jokes.
The main offender in this regard was Delegate Dave Albo, who is without a doubt one of the dimmest bulbs in an already low-wattage chamber. For reasons known only to himself (and perhaps his therapist), Albo thought that it would be a brilliant idea to take to the floor of the House and explain, in detail, how television coverage of the ultrasound bill had caused his wife to refuse to have sex with him. Seriously.
To help make his point, Albo even had one of his fellow legislators play a bass-heavy porno soundtrack while he rambled on about the size of his flat-screen TV, his “patented” sex-making moves, and the indignity of having his name linked to “‘trans-v’ this and ‘trans-v’ that.”
Needless to say, this cringe-inducing monologue was soon all over the Internet and late-night comedy shows, and surely contributed to the quick removal of the “trans-v” requirement from the ultrasound bill in the Senate.
But the damage had already been done. Just as Arizona’s draconian anti-immigration laws have turned Latinos against the GOP nationally, so has Virginia now become a symbol of the callous, mocking attitude Republicans seem to have toward the health, dignity, and self-determination of American women.
Did Virginia cost Santorum a Michigan victory? Of course not. But his long history of anti-abortion rhetoric and ominous warnings about “the dangers of contraception” have historically turned off many women voters, and we would argue that the Virginia ultrasound debate only served to heighten their concerns.
And remember, this is just the GOP primary. In the general election, the Republican candidate is going to need a sizable chunk of both Latino and women voters to win—and the crazier that state legislatures in places like Virginia and Arizona act, the harder that becomes.
On the plus side, however, if Barack Obama wins a second term, maybe Dave Albo’s wife will finally sleep with him again.