Rick Santorum sticks around like a sexually transmitted infection. As the Washington Post put it earlier today, while Mitt Romney has trouble connecting with audiences on the stump, Santorum’s message is frighteningly clear: he wants a United States of Christ. Or at least, his interpretation of what that would look like. I can see the cows coming home, and Santorum still hasn’t mentioned any of the Beatitudes. Apparently he’s given up on inheriting the earth.
Santorum’s Web site claims that he will “lead us from the front,” but in reality it sounds like he wants to lead from the uterus. Not his uterus, since he doesn’t have one, but any garden variety uterus from a random woman in America.
Once upon a time, the fight for abortion rights and reproductive health was fought over the terms of when, abstractly, a human life begins. That abstraction is now being pushed into legislative agendas and bills, in the form of “Personhood” laws that would make pregnancy termination by any means—even, horrifyingly enough, miscarriage—a crime on par with homicide. In Georgia and Utah, the criminalization of women’s health (by way of a natural miscarriage) made it further in the lawmaking process than many people were comfortable. But these would-be laws met resistance not only from bleeding heart liberals and progressives, they met resistance from law enforcement officials and health care providers, who pointed out that fully 25 percent of initial pregnancies failed. The jails would be full of women who’d done nothing other than lose their pregnancies. And what to make of premature babies who didn’t make it out of the NICU? Anti-abortion zealots said they’d add a clause about intention to harm or end the pregnancy. We can’t investigate every miscarriage, answered the first-line workers. The personhood idea went away for a little while, until it was revived, most recently in Mississippi.
Next, the so-called pro-life movement went back to the drawing board, picking up their always effective strategy of humiliating women, even women who were once embryos. The State of Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature introduced a bill to mandate that any woman seeking an abortion must submit to a transvaginal ultrasound first. A similar bill was introduced in Iowa that is not expected to pass. As Dr. Jennifer Gunter explains, there is no medical reason why a woman in her first trimester would need a penetrating ultrasound. Already the law in Texas, the consequence of these requirements is tantamount to state-sanctioned sexual assault, as well as putting health practitioners into conflict with the Hippocratic oath’s requirement of “First, do no harm.” And it bears mentioning that such ultrasounds are expensive, adding to the challenges facing poorer women who seek to terminate their pregnancies.
Even these restrictions haven’t been enough for anti-choice leaders. There was the Susan G. Komen defunding of Planned Parenthood. Then the GOP candidates began bloviating about not making any abortion exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Seriously? Republicans are interested in minor children carrying pregnancies to term? How about the evidence that suggests that it’s not medically healthy for a 10-year-old to carry a fetus for 40 weeks? Oh wait, now many in the GOP are against aborting fetuses even to save the life of the mother. The life of the mother. Pinch me when it starts making sense.
Leading from what he apparently thinks is the front, Rick Santorum said on the matter:
“Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life… I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.
“As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life. We have horrible things happen. I can’t think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.”
He’s also said that having an abortion would be a further trauma to any rape or incest survivor. So of course they should have to raise the children of their relatives. That’s sure to go well for them. Here, kid, we all call you the child of a “bad situation,” but have a great day!
Now the latest fight is over contraception, who has to pay for contraception (read, not the tax-subsidied Roman Catholic Church), and how against Biblical teachings using contraception is.
Much hay was made over the line of clergy men at the House hearing last week, discussing birth control as a vector against religious freedom. None of these learned scholars brought up the Judeo-Christian belief about free will and self-determination, which supposedly God and Jesus want us desperately to have, followers of themselves or not. Somehow religions have become protected entities, like corporations, with all of the benefits of personhood, while people are losing their rights to live their lives freely. Still following me here?
What the row of men in religious garb shows us, at the end of the day, is that the Republican party is committed to playing to the most extreme evangelical elements who can fund campaigns. The GOP establishment may have had it with the Tea Party—new Tea Party members in the House have not held the traditional lock-step line on votes, because their interpretation of “small government” is somehow more honest than what older House members believe in, earmarks and specialty subsidies for friends’s companies what they are. Looking at a potential watershed moment for the Democrats in the 2012 election, some in the Republican Party are thinking back to 2004, when Kerry went down in flames from the voters who showed up to vote for social issues, and from false ideas about his time in Vietnam.
So I want to know how much of the GOP-funded SuperPAC money will be spent on social issues, most notably same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive systems. Republicans have been testing, this whole primary cycle, which anti-choice messages will resonate with deep pocketed funders, who now can give as much money as they like to these SuperPACs. It’s looking more and more like the GOP strategy is: What Economy, Stupid? Little chance that we’ll be talking this summer about the candidates actual positions on domestic and foreign policy. And if women go down over the invectives, we’ll call it collateral damage.