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.

  • Naomi

    You know, I wasn't very optimistic about Obama winning a second term, but the more I hear about the Republican candidates, the more hopeful I am. (Not that Obama is left-leaning enough for me; not at all.)

  • dj pomegranate

    These guys are all so totally completely removed from reality. Whenever I read the newest ridiculous GOP statement, I feel like I'm reading an excerpt from The Handmaid's Tale via The Onion. Unfortunately for everyone, neither is the case.

  • Jason Dick

    Great post!Only think I'd point out is that continuing to use their term for themselves, "pro-life," is just plain inaccurate when they're willing to let women die to prevent abortion. I generally prefer "anti-abortion" or "anti-women".

  • Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    The whole political circus has become just that. A circus. On both ends of the spectrum. It'll be interesting to see what we're left with at election time. It will hardly be the cream of the crop, I'm sure. I have a feeling I'll be left voting for the "lesser of two evils." There's a part of me that feels, for the first time, like voting is just a joke, but I still can't NOT vote. My conscience won't let me not vote.

  • Elin

    Not being American I don't know what to say. I have been called backwards here in Sweden because I am somewhat critical of our very generous abortion law and I still don't want to outlaw abortion. I wouldn't have one myself except if my life was in danger or if the baby was dead already or so severely deformed that it cannot live at all (missing a brain or so) but I cannot bring myself to tell other women that they cannot have an abortion for such and such reason and then I cannot support outlawing abortion. I agree that letting women bleed to death cannot be prolife, if the mother dies the child will 100% die and then there are two lives down the drain instead of one… Regretfully, hospital staff sometimes have to make the choice to save one and not the other and this is one such case to me.

  • Autumn M.

    This is one of the issues I draw a line on. I will never…NEVER…vote for an anti-choice politician. Not that I'd vote for any of these Republicans anyway. But a politician who thinks it's his business what I do with my body disgusts me.Peace,Autumn

  • Libby Anne

    Autumn M. – Me too! And it's funny, because it's my parents' first consideration on looking at a politician as well – only in their case, they refuse to vote for anyone who doesn't favor banning abortion. It's funny that I look at the same issue first too, though in the opposite direction!

  • Libby Anne

    Jason – Someone once asked my dad how he could be against abortion but in favor of the death sentence and against gun control. His answer was that he doesn't see anything contradictory there at all. And see…I do. As for terminology, here's an explanation I will add as a note at the bottom of this post. 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.

  • Anonymous

    Funny how Republicans are pro-life until the child is born. After the child is born the Republicans do not want to invest in any social polcies that will assure this child has food to eat, health care, decent living environment or proper education. Go figure that logic… I can't.

  • Andrew G.

    The contradictory stuff about anti-abortion vs. pro-death-penalty arises because this stuff (like much of right-wing vs. left-wing orientation) has a strictly emotional basis, not a logical one.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    I find it so offensive that Mitt Romney's extreme views don't seem to in any way compromise his image as a moderate. I mean, the man is talking about outlawing birth control, for pity's sake. If he wanted to ban something that allowed men to have autonomy and control of their bodies, it would be on the news 24/7. And you can be that, if 50% of politicians and journalists were women, this would be a much bigger deal. Instead, the attitude seems to basically be "Ho hum, whatever. It's just women. Don't worry, you can oppose their basic rights and still be a moderate."

  • katidyd

    It is all awful and sick. I just read an article today about a woman (can't remember her name, kids woke me up extra early and my memory was not up to snuff) who was a product of rape and she is in favor of outlawing abortion. It's sick that this is a political issue at all. SO loved the anonymous comment up there about pro-lifers not investing in the child with basic services once they're born.

  • Elise

    dj pomegranate for the win!

  • Meggie

    So, if an abortion to save the mother's life becomes illegal, at what point can you deliver a baby?Many babies are delivered early due to maternal health issues and this often has an impact on the babies chance of survival. For example; Michelle Duggar had Josie at 25 weeks due to Eclampsia. She could/would have died if she did not have the caesarian. However, this put Josie's life in danger. A baby delivered at 25 weeks only has a 60% chance of survivial. Is this an acceptable risk to the child or will the mother be forced to continue the pregnancy? What about at 24 weeks where the survivial rate is only 50%? Or 23 weeks where it drops to 30%?Is there a difference between;1) Delivering a child at 12 weeks because it has implanted outside the uterus, saving the mothers life but knowing that the baby will definately die. 2) Delivering at 23 weeks due to Eclampsia, saving the mothers life but knowing there is only a small possibility the child will survive?Will all deliveries before 37 weeks be banned due to the risk to the baby or is some brave/idiotic politician going to try and draw a line between what is and isn't ok?# Statistics on survival rates are taken from the Australian Premi-Babes Association. USA statistics may be a little different.

  • Katy-Anne

    So I'm pro-life, but I see the irony of being against abortion but against gun control and for the death penalty. I am pro-life in the sense that I am pro-life for EVERYONE not just babies. I'm against war, I'm an advocate FOR gun control, I'm against the death penalty. To me it's a natural progression. If you claim to be pro-life then you are pro-life for everyone, babies, soldiers, prisoners, everyone.

  • Elin

    Katy-AnneI agree, pro-life should cover all lives if that is your position otherwise you are just 'anti-abortion'. I do not call myself pro-life but like you I am against killing. I have a more liberal understanding of when I see abortion as acceptable morally than most pro-lifers and do not work for the abolishment of abortions but I do see them as an evil. If I would ever call myself pro-life it would defintely not be if I were not against killing of adults as well.

  • Libby Anne

    Katy-Anne and Elin – I think it's totally possible to be pro-life and yet not work to abolish abortion legally. One reason is that, as I've said before, abolishing abortion is not actually the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions performed (and actually leads to an upswing in maternal death via. risky illegal abortion). Another reason is that someone can be personally against homosexuality and yet not seek to ban it, etc.

  • Anonymous

    It is imperative that Christians take a holistic view of life. The life of an unborn child is just as important as the mother. By banning abortion outright (even in situations that could be fatal to the woman) we essentially reinforce the notion of a females secondary status in this world. I think a consevative christian would be hard prssed to just let thier daughter die in an emergency situation when it could be prevented. Politicans make broad sweeping statements about women. A male politican lives in a male body and the reality of pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion will never touch him physically. They are passing laws that essentially do them (men) no physical harm while a women could possibly be left to bleed out and die. I don't think I want my life or death determined by a politican. With all this authority in my life, do you think he would attend my funeral if I died because an abortion that could have saved my life was not performed? I think not.Terri Tippins

  • Elin

    Libby AnneI might have worded my comment poorly, I don't really mean that you have to be an activist to be pro-life but I find it hard to combine being pro-life and not have any wish to limit the number of abortions. I do see that you can be pro-life and mainly want to limit the number of abortions by for example talking to women wanting to abort and make sure that she has considered all the facts and not work for a law change but most people being pro-life want to abolish or greatly limit the possibilities for abortions by law. Because many people have this view I will not call myself pro-life although I am critical of a number of things related to abortions.

  • Anonymous

    Elin, nobody changes her mind to have an abortion because somebody "talks to her" and "gives her the facts".They change their minds because their situation changes and they find themselves able to care for a child (usually, another child – big surprise that people prioritize the children they already have!)If you want to reduce abortions, you really have to improve assistance for women. More parental leave. More support for breastfeeding in the workplace. More aid for lower income families. More assistance (and better quality) for disabled children and parents. Better early education options and low cost daycare – and better higher education options as well, even through college! And, of course, greater and cheaper access to birth control, for everybody.

  • Elin

    Well, I don't want to force people to not have an abortion myself, it is up to them but I know people who cancel people who are unsure if they want an abortion and they do change people's minds sometimes but I find that unethical and want nothing to do with that.As a Swede I can say that what you say is not true. We have 480 days of paid parental leave which can be extended further if you choose to take out unpaid days, high breastfeeding figures, financial support for low income families, a good system for assisting disabled people, low cost daycare, birth control is often free for young girls and a generally educated population and do you know what, still high abortion rate. Who has the abortions in Sweden? Well some are teen abortions which to me is not that odd, I understand that a 14 year old chooses abortion and in some cases I even support it. However, the majority of the abortions are made by women who have all opportunities in the world to take care of a child and they do not do it out of need.

  • Elin

    … I know people who councel…

  • Libby Anne

    Elin – I just looked up the stats, and you're right, while Sweden's rate is lower than that of the U.S. it is higher than that of most of Western Europe. I wonder why that is. What is Holland doing that allows it to have a third the abortions of Sweden? That would be my question. I realize you can't eliminate abortion completely by these means, but statistically birth control and better maternal support have been shown to lower the rate. I would be curious to see a comparison of how Sweden handles these things compared to how, say, Germany does. I wonder if there's something cultural going on?Also, realize that even banning it would not eliminate it – there were plenty of abortions performed before it was legal, and they were dangerous, and in countries in Africa where abortion is currently illegal it actually takes place at HIGHER rates than in Western Europe. Abortion will always be with us.

  • Libby Anne

    Also I think you mean something different when you speak of counseling women than people in the U.S. do when they hear the term. "Counseling" women regarding abortion is what the anti-choice clinics here (and they FAR outnumber abortion clinics) do, where they scare women and give them false information about the risks and false information about what their fetus looks like and basically tell them they'll go to hell if they "kill their baby." THAT is not counseling, not genuinely discussing options and pros and cons in a safe and neutral space, it's straight up lies and scare tactics. But, that's what we have here in the U.S. These clinics even pretend to be abortion clinics to lure women in unawares. It's sick.

  • Elin

    Unfortunately I don't mean something that much different than people in the US with regards to counseling and the people I know. They are the type that try to make women not have abortions but I don't think that they give false information but their aim is to stop the woman from having an abortion… I don't support that kind of couseling at all.At health care facilities you can get 'real' counseling about abortions though and women who have abortions have the right to talk to a professional if they like before and after to help their feelings.I also wonder why the abortion rate is so high here, but I think that one reason can be that you do not have to list a reason for an abortion here. I think that could be a way for the hospitals to find out if a woman is pressured to have an abortion by the husband or parent and I think that some women would obstain from an abortion if they cannot come up with an answer to the question 'why'. I also think that the fact that you can get an abortion until week 18 might play a role, I think Finland which is culturally similiar has until week 14 and also lower rates. It should be said though that most Swedish women have abortions before week 14 so it cannot be the whole explanation. I think that hospital staff are supportive of abortions for teenagers and some might feel pushed to such choice but that is not the whole explanation either.We don't have abortion clinics here, they are performed at hospitals and by the same people who deliver babies and it is very hard to be anti-abortion and work in this field in Sweden. A relative of mine find it sad that she cannot work as a midwife because she cannot stomage assisting in abortions but this is the way it works here. She is a nurse in another field instead.

  • Jo

    dj pomegranate: Whenever I read the newest ridiculous GOP statement, I feel like I'm reading an excerpt from The Handmaid's Tale via The Onion.even though none of this is a laughing matter, your assessment is so dead on that I really DID laugh out loud, and then immediately went downstairs and interrupted my dad watching Law and Order to share it with him :)To weigh in, I am STRONGLY pro-choice on principle, but I honestly cannot imagine what I would do if I were in the situation of considering an abortion. To Elin's last comment: I think you may have a point. I know of a young woman who was engaged to be married, got pregnant unintentionally, and he DEMANDED she terminate: She's a smart enough lady that this crystallized for her how controlling he'd been in the relationship, ditched his sorry, controlling ass – and then ended up after much soul-searching, deciding to abort because she didn't want to be in the situation of raising the child alone.