Early Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he will not run for re-election this November. His retirement will mark the end of a 19-year career in politics defined by relentless attacks on women, children and families.
Instead of citing his embattled and increasingly contentious tenure as the reason for his decision, Ryan said he wished to retire to spend more time with his family. “If I am here for one more term my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad,” Ryan said in a statement. “I just can’t let that happen. So I will be setting new priorities in my life.” (He went on to dive into his “biggest achievements,” including a tax code that is already furthering economic inequity and increased funding for the military at the expense of critically important domestic programs.)
In light of all of the shamelessly anti-woman and anti-feminist policies Ryan has advanced in Congress, his comments about spending more time with his own family rang hollow. Ryan’s retirement—and the projected “pink wave” swelling across the nation—is good news for many Americans, but none more so than the women, families and children disproportionately affected by the soon-to-be outgoing House Speaker’s policies. Despite his posturing as a moderate in the “grab ’em by the p-ssy” age of GOP politics, Ryan’s political roots lie in dangerous, anti-woman extremism.
So long and good riddance. Paul Ryan's legacy will be defined by his viciously anti-woman budgets and his efforts to dismantle access to women's health care. But he and his allies who voted in lockstep with him know they can't defend their legacy any more. https://t.co/dNHJFSDqbS
— EMILY's List (@emilyslist) April 11, 2018
This isn’t the first time Ryan hypocritically patted himself on the back for wanting to spend more time with his children. In 2015, he announced his opposition to expanding paid family leave with a startling declaration to reporters: “I cannot and I will not give up my family time.” Many new families and parents of newborns are torn apart at the most critical stage of children’s lives because they don’t have jobs that offer sufficient—or any—paid leave. Ryan’s opposition to such critical policies have made spending more time together a pipe dream for low-income families. Similarly, his demands for weakening social security have left early—or any—retirement out of reach for parents across the country.
Ryan also steered repeated attacks on the Affordable Care Act, through which thousands of low-income, minority and immigrant families gained access to health insurance for the first time in their lives—and women to comprehensive maternal health services. While he re-adjusts his priorities, many parents are being forced to choose between securing care for their families and putting food on the table.
The Speaker’s devotion to his family, of course, also lies in stark contrast to his positions on women planning their own. In 2016, Ryan dismissed the groundbreaking contraceptive mandate in the ACA as the “nitty gritty,” reducing the economic enfranchisement and health and safety of thousands of women to a tangential footnote. That mandate notably granted 55 million women access to copay-free birth control annually between its 2013 inception and 2016, and also saved women $1.4 billion every year. Affordable birth control access is critical for low-income families to plan their families, and for parents who lack to financial means of most high-profile House members—to ensure they have enough time to spend with their children.
Speaking of children: Ryan declined every possible opportunity to reinstate funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program prior to and after it expired on Sept. 30, 2017. The program, which covers health insurance for nine million children in America, finally received funding again for the next four years in February, but not before Ryan and the Republican Party drew maximum mileage in using millions of children and immigrant families as bargaining chips for leverage in the budget. Ryan’s disregard for children’s lives, however, didn’t stop him from cosponsoring a bill in 2015 to give fetuses “personhood,” which would quite obviously come at the severe expense of women’s rights and legal abortion access.
Ryan’s enabling of President Donald Trump has marked a new low and a dark chapter for the GOP, and it has damaged his legacy and career. But Ryan and his hard-line stances on social security, welfare and other key social programs have always been flagrant demonstrations of a similarly callous kind of politics. If Ryan will forever be remembered for putting party over country, we should be sure to also remember that he also put his own agenda above the lives of millions of women and families.
This is the first positive thing for women Paul Ryan has done in his 19 years in office. https://t.co/mMYwnb5nrN
— NARAL (@NARAL) April 11, 2018
Let’s not mince words: Paul Ryan’s retirement is a victory for women across the country, and feminists won’t soon forget it.