The Republican Primary: A Race to the Extreme

There’s something rather scary going on in the Republican presidential primary. It’s as though the candidates are having a contest to see who can be the most extreme. One area where this competition is on in full force involves sex, abortion, and birth control.

Rick Santorum has decided that it’s not enough to be against abortion. He is now against birth control, and not just in his private life – if he were elected president, he would do what he could to use public policy to decrease the use of birth control. Oh yes.
This calls for a quote:

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. [Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It’s supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal…but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen…This is special and it needs to be seen as special.”
Santorum, I have news for you. First, I’m married, and I’d really like to be able to have sex with my husband without being perpetually pregnant. Strange idea, I know! You seem to be missing that most women in this country are in favor of female equality, and that in order to achieve such equality women must be able to control their reproduction. Second, what people do in private is none of your business. If people want to have sex outside of marriage, what right have you to interfere? Third, are you aware that discouraging birth control will actually increase abortion? Because it will. But why am I acting like Santorum can actually be reasoned with on this point? Silly me.
But, you might say, Santorum has no chance at gaining the nomination. Well, let’s look at the two candidates who are currently being called “front runners.”
Mitt Romney is supposed to be the moderate candidate, the reasonable candidate. Nope. First, Mitt Romney wants to define personhood as beginning at conception by federal amendment. This would not only outlaw abortion completely, but also outlaw several prominent forms of birth control (a fact of which Mitt Romney is apparently ignorant, given his complete ignorance of the lady parts he so wants to control).
But it gets even worse. When Romney was a Mormon Bishop in Massachusetts, he apparently told a parishioner that she should not get an abortion – even though she had a life threatening condition that would potentially have killed her had she continued her pregnancy. That’s right, he looked this woman whose life was in imminent danger in the face, and told her to suck it up and, potentially, die.
This stuff is not theoretical. Congress just the other week passed a law that would allow hospitals to deny abortions to women in emergency situations, perhaps hemorrhaging to death, who would likely die without the procedure. Last spring the state of Indiana defunded Planned Parenthood, which provides free or subsidized birth control to thousands of lower income women. Other states followed suit. Mississippi is soon to vote on a personhood amendment, which would define life as beginning at conception and potentially criminalize miscarriage. I’m starting to wonder if getting pregnant in this country means completely surrendering your rights, and, potentially, even your life.
Now we come to Herman Cain, who has flipflopped on this issue. He first said that while he was personally against abortion, he thought it should be up to the individual woman to make such a personal decision. That’s…pro-choice. Cain was immediately slammed for this by the other presidential candidates, so he changed his position and is now in favor of banning abortion even in the case of rape or incest (“Because if you look at rape and incest, the percentage of those instances is so miniscule that there are other options.”). It appears Cain learned an important lesson over the past few weeks: You can’t be a Republican with any hope of winning the presidential nomination without being 100% pro-life. It’s become a sort of litmus test. At least Cain hasn’t said anything about a personhood amendment…yet.
While I was raised 100% pro-life and grew up in a family where many forms of birth control were condemned, I am today pro-choice. My ultimate goal would be to (a) make sex education comprehensive; (b) make birth control readily available and widely used; (c) offer more support for lower income and single mothers, including subsidized health care and child care; (d) eliminate restrictions on first trimester abortion to make it easy for those who want abortions to get them as early as possible; and (e) limit abortions in the second and third trimesters to cases of severe disability of the fetus or threats to the life of the mother.
I’m aware that my readers are a diverse bunch. Some of you are completely pro-choice like me, and some of you may be personally pro-life but not in favor of legally banning abortion outright. And who knows, maybe some of my readers would like to see abortion banned! But I would hope that even my readers who are pro-life can see that politicians are going too far when they (a) attack a woman’s right to an abortion when her (and by implication, also the fetus’) life is in danger; (b) give hospitals permission to allow women to bleed to death when a simple abortion would save their lives; (c) argue for potentially making miscarriages subject to criminal investigation; and (d) begin attacking contraception.
It’s like the Republican presidential candidates have realized that being against abortion is old hat. Have you ever played one of those games where your goal is to get the lowest time at matching, or what have you? You think your time is great, but then your brother beats it by ten seconds. Suddenly, your old time isn’t enough, and you have to do whatever you can to beat your brother’s time. This is what appears to be going on in the Republican presidential primary as each candidates feels the need to prove him or herself more extreme on the issue of abortion than any of the other candidates. It’s like a contest that has spiraled out of control, and suddenly, it’s no longer just about abortion.
All I can say is, there’s no way in hell I’m voting for a Republican next year.

Note:  Terminology gets complicated in the abortion debate. Growing up, my parents refused to call pro-choice individuals “pro-choice.” They called them “pro-abortion” (which of course is not technically correct at all). Since then, I’ve found that many pro-choice individuals refuse to call pro-life individuals “pro-life,” preferring instead to call them “anti-abortion” (which is technically correct but ignores activists’ publicly stated reason for their position). While I understand this, I’m a bit sick of the terminology debate, so for the time being I’m calling each side what they call themselves - i.e. “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” I might change my mind in the future, but this is what I’m following for the time being.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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