The new year is supposed to bring in rejuvenation. Considering that everyone is one year older and hopefully wiser, the new year should usher in new goals, insights and evolved ideas. One thing it should not bring in is the same old ideas of the past.

2013 was a rough year for the American government. From the NSA leaks to the government shutdown to the continuing debacle that is, the American people lost a lot of faith in their government this past year. In particular, Americans got to see just how polarized Congress is. In 2013, the first year of the 113th Congress, a total of 65 laws were passed — the fewest of any single Congressional session on record. The House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 42 times while much-needed legislation on immigration reform, a farm bill and an act ensuring the creation of jobs all floundered and were unable to get out of committee.

Instead of approaching the new year with optimism and potential bipartisanship, the House is simply repeating the errors of the past year. Last week House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–Va) released the congressional calendar for 2014. In an effort to maximize campaign abilities for the upcoming midterm election, the House will be in session just 97 days prior to Election Day, and 112 days altogether. In 2013, the House was in session 118 days before Election Day and 135 days altogether. Just when we thought the “do nothing Congress” had done as little as they possibly could, we discover that Congress can somehow stoop even lower.

While the GOP is maintaining its strict philosophy that “a government that does nothing is a good government,” the party has also renewed another one of its past initiatives: its war on women.

Last Thursday, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” This subcommittee, consisting solely of 12 men, reviewed a bill that would “deny tax subsidies to women and small businesses who purchase health insurance plans that include abortion coverage.” This bill would ban insurance coverage for abortion in all of the newly created state-level insurance marketplaces from the ACA while also forcing small businesses to pay additional taxes on health benefits for their employees if the company’s insurer offers abortion coverage. The bill’s only exceptions are for women who are victims of rape or incest, and for cases in which the life of the mother is at risk. This distinction of whether or not an abortion fits these exceptional circumstances will likely be decided by the IRS, meaning that a rape victim would potentially need to plead her case for an abortion to an IRS auditor.

Don’t let the name of the bill fool you. Taxpayer dollars are already banned from going toward abortions as reinforced by the Stupak Amendment of the ACA. The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” instead works to curtail women’s rights by penalizing those who offer such types of insurance.

But the GOP’s war on women’s health doesn’t stop there. Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Wis.) announced last month that he plans on attaching a rider to the appropriations package that is likely facing a vote next week, which would allow employers to refuse offering health insurance that covers contraception for moral reasons. As Ryan said on a talk radio interview last month, “I’m fighting for a conscience clause rider on appropriations because I’m very worried about religious freedom.”

Religious freedom is certainly something worth defending, and it is guaranteed to us in the First Amendment of the Constitution. But that same document establishes the judicial branch of government headed by the Supreme Court. The Court has made it clear time and again that a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body. Instead of appreciating the law of the land set forth by the Supreme Court, the GOP continues to do everything in its power to strip women of their legal rights.

This battle is particularly relevant here in Michigan, as this state has now become one of the single most restrictive states for women’s health. Last month the Republican-dominated state legislature approved a bill that bans both public and private insurers from covering an abortion even in the cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the mother’s life. Now a woman in Michigan will have to purchase an additional rider on her insurance policy if she wishes to proactively prepare for getting pregnant from rape. Unfortunately, other states are following Michigan’s lead and working to pass similar laws.

So for those of us who are ready to fight for women’s health, get ready for another year filled with the same old arguments perpetuated by the same old list of characters. Instead of focusing on pressing issues that should be a goal of legislative action, the GOP has decided to continue its war on women in the coming year in order to rally its conservative base for the upcoming midterm elections. Another year will likely be wasted on partisanship. Although I’d love to say that 2015 might usher in an era when middle-aged white men stop making decisions about what women can do with their bodies, I’m not too optimistic.

Patrick Maillet can be reached at

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