From its appearance in the healthcare bill to its use as a litmus test to assess political candidates, the GOP is obsessed with abortion. Two new pieces in the Daily Beast explore how hardliners are gaining ground while sabotaging progress.

Relating the tale of Dede Scozzafava, a Republican Congressional hopeful targeted by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin for being pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, Linda Hirschman explains that the GOP has a definite idea for the role of women in the party - and it isn't in elected positions.

But Scozzafava's defeat and the mounting campaign against Hutchison reveals a fascinating and underreported problem for the Republicans: They will only run women who will say that women should not control their reproductive fates. Although there are many male Republican candidates who easily embrace this position, politically accomplished women who believe in criminal abortion are rare, even in the Republican Party. And the ones who surface are likely to be, well, rogue. [...]

The transformation of the Republican Party by the rise of conservative, evangelical, and Southern movements disables the Republicans from grooming a new generation of female candidates. For one thing, the fecund, domesticated women they admire are too busy staying home with their children, and as a result there are very few prominent female Republican office-holders (as Palin's incoherent campaign reflected, it is very hard to be Tracy Flick, from Election, and June Cleaver simultaneously). The only elected female Republican governor (there are two who succeeded governors who resigned) is an outlier-a pro-choice Jewish woman from Hawaii. And Alaska's young Senator Lisa Murkowski is classified as a moderate and has a mixed record on the all-important abortion litmus test. By contrast, there are 13 female Democratic senators and four elected female Democratic governors. Only one-quarter of the 80 female representatives in the U.S. Congress are Republican; three-quarters are Democrats. Republican Scozzafava's withdrawal leaves these numbers in place.

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It's clear that the unrelenting adherence to an anti-choice agenda is hurting the Republican party, in both representation and numbers. However, there are many who embrace their anti-choice stance and are using it to advance other priorities. In a different Daily Beast piece, Dana Goldstein explores how conservatives are successfully flexing their lobbying might and severely restricting abortion rights in the health care bill:

The Pelosi bill contains a number of provisions that would improve women's access to affordable health care, including ending "gender rating"-in which insurers charge women more for coverage-and making it illegal to classify C-sections, domestic violence, and even pregnancy as pre-existing conditions that disqualify women for health insurance. It includes new funding for comprehensive sex education, supplanting some of the abstinence-only programs favored by the Bush administration. The bill also aggressively expands Medicaid, the existing federal health-insurance program for low-income women and their children, which includes generous birth-control coverage.

But on the narrower issue of abortion access and affordability, the major pro-choice organizations aren't shy about expressing their disappointment: The legislation references abortion more than 25 times, mostly in an effort to restrict access to the procedure.

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Conservative opposition to the health care bill has manifested in a few ways that actually strengthen regulations surrounding abortion. So, even with a pro-choice majority, our reproductive rights are still in danger:

Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues, told The Daily Beast, "Currently, it's not that we can't pay for coverage that includes abortions. It's that we can't cover abortions. The new standard is stricter than the standard in Hyde."

In addition, in each state, the health-insurance market must include one plan that does cover abortion, and one plan that does not. But because the vast majority of insurers currently do cover the procedure, pro-choicers view the provision as a step forward for the opposition. "That kind of leans toward the pro-life position," Waxman said.

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How the GOP Loses Women [The Daily Beast]
Abortion Under Fire [The Daily Beast]