I wrote Monday night about the emerging conservative war on women’s sexuality, and it looks like I was on to something. At Wednesday’s GOP debate in Arizona the Republican candidates for president competed to be the most vociferous in their opposition to reproductive health and freedom.
CNN’s John King read a viewer-submitted question about whether the candidates support birth control and why or why not. The audience immediately booed, because they hate when their candidates are forced to expose their extremism on social issues. In recent weeks all the Republican candidates have all volunteered their opposition to making contraception available, specifically with regard to the Obama administration’s requirement that employer provided health insurance cover it. But somehow asking about that is considered unfair. “You did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide[when he was in the Illinois State Senate],” complained Gingrich. You’ll be shocked to know that Obama never actually voted for infanticide but rather for protecting doctors who complete abortions when the fetus shows “signs of life” from unfair prosecutions.
But we already knew Gingrich was prone to cheap demagoguery; Gingrich makes a hypocritical attack on “elites,” the media or the “elite media,” in every debate. What we don’t get to see as often is just how inhumane the Republican candidates all are on women’s health.
King noted that Gingrich and Rick Santorum have criticized Mitt Romney for having signed a law requiring hospitals, even Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims when he was governor of Massachusetts. If Romney were a decent person, this would be an easy question to answer. He would say, “Of course any institution in our society that purports to care for the sick must provide contraception to rape victims.” But Romney isn’t running for decent person, he’s running to be the Republican nominee for president.
And so Romney defensively insisted he would never have dared tell anyone to provide contraception to a rape victim. “There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their report. There was no such requirement.”
Think a little bit about what this means: a woman who is violently raped and has no control of which hospital she is taken to, or who lives near only a Catholic hospital, will be forced to carry her rapist’s fetus.
The even greater irony, of course, is that this woman who does not want to be forced to carry her rapists’ fetus will end up getting an actual abortion, not using the morning after pill, which Gingrich falsely characterized at the debate as a kind of abortion.
Santorum and Gingrich were not in the least bit embarrassed to have been referenced opposing contraception for rape victims. Indeed, they pressed the point. “The reports we got were quite clear that the public health department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a morning-after abortion pill, and that the governor’s office issued explicit instructions saying that they believed it wasn’t possible under Massachusetts law to give them that waiver,” said Gingrich.
“If you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator [Santorum] has, you voted for birth control pills,” noted Ron Paul. “And you literally, because funds are fungible, you literally vote for abortions because Planned Parenthood gets the money.”
That’s an easy argument for Paul to make because Paul opposes the federal government providing any health services. For a big government anti–sexual freedom conservative such as Santorum, though, it poses a conundrum. Santorum’s response was that he opposes federal spending on contraception (through a law called Title X), but knowing he couldn’t get rid of it settled for trying to balance it with abstinence education.
As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding, but it’s included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including the funding for the National Institutes of Health, the funding for Health and Human Services and a whole bunch of other departments. It’s a multibillion-dollar bill.
What I did, because Title X was always pushed through, I did something that no one else did. Congressman Paul didn’t. I said, well, if you’re going to have Title X funding, then we’re going to create something called Title XX, which is going to provide funding for abstinence-based programs, so at least we’ll have an opportunity to provide programs that actually work in — in keeping children from being sexually active instead of facilitating children from being sexually active. And I pushed Title XX to — to accomplish that goal.
You’d think voting for contraception, which helps reduce the number of abortions, would be unobjectionable. But Republicans think it’s so immoral that Romney actually accused Santorum of being insufficiently anti–reproductive freedom:
Senator, I just saw a YouTube clip of you being interviewed where you said that you personally opposed contraceptives but that you — you said that you voted for Title X. But you used that as an argument, saying this is something I did proactively. You didn’t say this is something I was opposed to; it wasn’t something I would have done. You said this — you said this in a positive light, “I voted for Title X.”
God forbid. The intellectual honesty award goes, as always, to Paul. Being an ObGyn, Paul had to point out that Gingrich was lying when he referred to the morning after pill as an abortion. “Actually, the morning-after pill is nothing more than a birth control pill… you can’t separate the two. They’re all basically the same, hormonally,” said Paul.
So, naturally it follows that Republicans who don’t want hospitals to provide birth control don’t want them to offer the morning-after pill either. That should teach those slutty trollops not to get raped, right?