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GOP Senator Joni Ernst-- No Backer of Contraception

GOP Senator Joni Ernst on Contraception–”What’s That?”   July 7, 2024


      Remember when the Supreme Court, with a big assist from the Trump-appointed Justices, overturned the right to choice by overruling “Roe v. Wade” nearly two years ago in the “Dobbs” case? At that time, some of the Justices and many other  people, including pundits, argued that this decision had nothing to do with overturning the basic right of contraception or birth control upheld in the1965 “Griswold v. Connecticut” case. Of course, leading Supreme Ct. conservative “thinker” (LOL) Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his concurring opinion that the “Dobbs” decision meant that it was now time for SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States) to “reconsider” the right to contraception that “Griswold” had upheld (See nytimes.com, Karni, 6/05/24). Translation: the right to contraception may no longer be  safe with Thomas, Alito, and their fellow Trumpist sympathizers on the SCOTUS bench. 


      Because the right to contraception may now be at risk, Senate Democrats brought to the floor a bill to codify the right to contraception nationwide. This bill, the Right to Contraception Act, would enshrine into federal law a right for individuals to buy and use contraceptives, as well as health care providers to provide them. It would apply to birth control pills, the plan B pill (the emergency contraceptive pill), condoms, and other forms of contraception. Senate GOPers, however, with the exception of Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) blocked or voted against advancing this legislation, overwhelmingly supported by the American public. Democrats, who voted unanimously on this legislation, were left nine votes short of the 60 they would need to break a “Team Red” filibuster on this major issue. In the minds of the current hard-right GOPers, contraception is too closely linked to abortion, a false view of female reproduction. GOPers wrongly called this bill a “political  stunt” since there was no need to protect it and “would force health care providers to provide abortion drugs (Karni, nytimes.com).” Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) correctly stated that there was “nothing -nothing in this bill about abortion. To suggest this bill expands abortion is vulgar fear-mongering, plain and simple (nytimes.com, Karni, 6/05/24).”  Senator Joni Ernst(R-IA)  attempted to pass an alternative bill that Democrats blocked. Ernst’s bill stated that her bill “does not include Plan B, which many folks on the right would consider abortive services. Big distinction. We want to prevent a pregnancy, not end a pregnancy.” However, the emergency contraceptive pill sold as Plan B One-Step does not prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb and does NOT cause an abortion, according to a statement by the US Food and Drug Administration (cnn.com, Foran, Rimmer, & Barrett, 6/05/24). Senator Ernst also stated that the Democratic bill did not have conscience protections for those who are opposed to birth control on moral or religious grounds. She further claimed her bill would expand contraceptive access. Democrats responded that Sen. Ernst’s legislation would have no practical impact except to mislead voters about GOPers true positions (hostile) to women’s health (nytimes.com, Karni, 6/05/24). Who is this Sen. Ernst? 


       Second-term Republican Senator Joni Ernst (53) is Iowa’s junior U.S. Senator. Born and raised on a farm in southwest IA in rural Montgomery County, Ernst attended Iowa State University and earned a master’s from Georgia’s Columbus State University. In 1993, she joined the National Guard and was deployed to Kuwait a decade later during the Iraq War. In 2015, Ernst retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the IA National Guard (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). 


        In 2004, Ernst was elected Montgomery County auditor and served two terms before she won election to the IA State Senate in 2010. When Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Harkin did not run for re-election in 2014, Ernst won the five-way GOP primary with 56% of the vote. She had the endorsement of establishment GOPrs including Mitt Romney and Tea Party people like Sarah Palin. Ernst  jumped to national prominence on the basis of what became known as her “squeal” ad. In that ad, Ernst declared, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So, when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork… Washington’s full of big spenders, let’s make them squeal.” The Democrats strongly backed Cong. Bruce Braley. Braley, however, ran what was considered by many the worst 2014 campaign. He made several major gaffes. He was heavily criticized for being elitist and out-of-touch because he bragged that he was an attorney and that if the GOPers took back the Senate, which they did in 2014, IA senior Senator Chuck Grassley, a non-attorney, would chair the Judiciary Committee. Democrats heavily attacked Ernst for stating she wanted to abolish the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Department of Education. “Team Blue” went after Ernst for being against the minimum wage and for her strong anti-choice stance. Ernst favored a constitutional “personhood” amendment to ban all abortions. Despite her hard-right stands, she clobbered Braley by 8 points. Ernst’s election presaged Donald’s strong IA win in 2016 and the collapse of the Democratic Party in that “Red”-trending state (Cohen & Cook 2022). 


     Ernst became the first woman elected to Cong. from the Hawkeye State, the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate, and the first woman to serve in GOP leadership in a decade. She was tapped to give the “Team Red” response to Obama’s State of the Union address, one month after she had been sworn in to the upper congressional chamber. She was prominently featured at the 2016 GOP Convention that nominated Donald. Many pundits mentioned Ernst as a possible VP running mate for Demagogue Donald and she met privately with him before he selected Mike Pence (Cohen & Cook 2022, wiki). In August, 2020, when IA had the most new COVID-19 infections per capita of any state in a one-week period, Ernst repeated a debunked conspiracy theory that the case numbers were greatly inflated and that health care providers might be falsifying these statistics. She later walked back this conspiracy drivel (nytimes.com, Gabriel, 9/02/20, Shepherd, washingtonpost.com, 9/02/20). When Justice Scalia suddenly died in early 2016, Ernst opposed voting to replace him until after the election. However, when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in September, 2020, Sen. Ernst, a proud member of the “G rand H hypocrite P arty” (GHP), had no problems voting for Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the High Court. At that time, early voting in the Trump-Biden contest had already begun (pbs.org, Desjardins, 9/22/20, time.com, Villa, 9/24/20). Ernst voted against  impeaching Demagogue Donald twice for inciting the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot and for trying to blackmail Ukraine leader Zelensky unless he gave him “dirt” on Biden (kwwl.com, Oates, 1/08/21, wiki). We should not at all be surprised at Sen. Ernst’s backing of Trump on impeachment or just about anything else. As of October, 2020, she had voted in line with Donald’s actions 91.1% of the time. The liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) gave Sen. Ernst a zero score for 2019. “Politico” called Ernst “a reliable vote for most of Trump’s agenda (politico, Levine, M., 3/31/19, Bycoffe, A., 1/30/17, fivethirtyeight.com).” 

     And here are more of Sen. Ernst’s key stands. Besides being opposed to backing  female reproductive rights, Ernst introduced legislation to allow states to block Planned Parenthood from receiving reimbursements for treating Medicaid patients. She supported the Supreme Ct.’s “Dobbs” decision that overturned “Roe” and called that High Court opinion a “science based decision (theintercept.com, Smith, J., 2/10/17, @SenJoniErnst, via Twitter, 6/24/22).” Science based? That decision in which Justice Alito quoted reactionary British judges who lived several centuries ago? Give me a break! Sen. Ernst also could care less about diabetics, even though she has siblings who suffer from this disease. She voted against capping the price of insulin at $35 (yahoo.com,  8/07/22, Ernst, via Twitter, 10/04/20).


       Sen. Ernst has called Barack Obama a “dictator” who doesn’t follow the Constitution and should be removed from office. She condemned Obama for handling the Ebola outbreak in which less than a handful of Americans fell ill, but praised Donald’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans (wiki, politico.com, Burgess & Bresnahan, 5/06/20). Sen. Ernst favors the regressive flat tax and voted for Donald’s reactionary top 1% tax cut. She favors gutting Social Security by partially privatizing it (politico.com, wiki). She rejects the scientific consensus on climate change being man-made and is supported by the anti-environmental Koch brothers (desmoinesregister.com, Noble,5/09/14, Vogel, politico.com, 11/12/15). She supports open carry legislation that allows guns to be carried openly in public. After several horrible gun massacres, she argued that just because such tragedies occurred, does not mean that people’s Second Amendment rights should be infringed (Noble, 5/09/14, kbcd.com, 1/10/19). Sen. Ernst opposes Obamacare and has voted for all three versions to repeal it (nytimes.com, Parlapiano, Andrews, et al, 7/25/17). Sen. Ernst favors supporting a ban on same-sex marriage (huffpost.com, Reilly, 5/29/14). You get the idea. 


         When Sen. Ernst ran for re-election in 2020, she defeated her Democratic rival by a 6.59% margin (U.S. Senate general election in IA, 2020). In “Red”-leaning rural-dominated IA, where Trump handily won in that same year by 8 points, Sen. Ernst’s does not seem politically vulnerable.


          Again, the key is to keep Sen. Ernst in the minority where all she can do is “squeal” for her hard-right positions. In 2024, outside of IA, Democrats must get out and vote in droves plus to add Senate seats to their camp. Failure to come out and vote in these crucial races constitutes, as Bill Clinton has said, “political malpractice.”     



            


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