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“The Politics Of Sex”: The Bad News Is Good News

There was one brief shining moment last week when Mitt Romney appeared to be saying something sensible about sex.

“The idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there,” he told reporters.

This was the way Republicans used to talk, oh, about a millennium or so ago. The state legislators wore nice suits and worried about bonded indebtedness and blushed if you said “pelvis.” A woman’s private plumbing? Change the topic, for lord’s sake. Now some of them appear to think about women’s sex lives 24/7, and not in a cheerful, recreational manner.

And it turned out that Romney misspoke. He apparently didn’t realize that the subject he was proposing to steer clear of was a Republican plan to allow employers to refuse to provide health care coverage for contraception if they had moral objections to birth control.

He was definitely going there! Mittworld quickly issued a retraction making it clear that Romney totally supports the idea of getting into questions of contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman. Particularly when it comes to reducing health insurance coverage.

Really, what did you expect? If Romney couldn’t even take a clear stand on Rush Limbaugh’s Slutgate, why would he say anything that forthright unless it was a total error? This is why we can’t get the dog-on-the-car-roof story straightened out. The reporters have their hands full just figuring out Mitt’s position on the biggest controversy of the last month.

We’ve certainly come to a wild and crazy place when it comes to the politics of sex. Perhaps this would be a good time to invest in burqa futures. However, I like to look on the bright side, and I am beginning to think we may actually be turning a corner and actually getting closer to resolving everything.

All of this goes back to the anti-abortion movement, which was very successful for a long time, in large part because it managed to make it appear that the question was whether or not doctors should be allowed to cut up fetuses that were nearly viable outside the womb.

But now we’re fighting about whether poor women in Texas — where more than half the children are born to families whose incomes are low enough to qualify them for Medicaid coverage of the deliveries — should have access to family planning. As Pam Belluck and Emily Ramshaw reported in The Times this week, the right has taken its war against Planned Parenthood to the point where clinics, none of which performed abortions and some of which are not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, are being forced to close for lack of state funds.

Or about whether a woman seeking an abortion should be forced to let a doctor stick a device into her vagina to take pictures of the fetus. The more states attempt to pass these laws, the more people are going to be reminded that most abortions are performed within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, when the embryo in question is less than an inch-and-a-half long.

And the more we argue about contraception, the more people are going to notice that a great many of the folks who are opposed to abortion in general are also opposed to birth control. Some believe that sex, even within marriage, should never be divorced from the possibility of conception. Some believe that most forms of contraception are nothing but perpetual mini-abortions.

Most Americans aren’t in these boats. In fact, they are so completely not in the boats that very, very few Catholic priests attempt to force their parishioners to follow the church’s rules against contraceptives, even as the Catholic bishops are now attempting to torpedo the health care reform law on that very principle.

Every time a state considers a “personhood” amendment that would give a fertilized egg the standing of a human being, outlawing some forms of fertility treatment and common contraceptives, it reinforces the argument that the current abortion debate is actually about theology, not generally held national principles.

And, of course, every time we have one of those exciting discussions about the Limbaugh theory on making women who get health care coverage for contraception broadcast their sex lives on the Internet, the more the Republican Party loses votes, money, sympathy — you name it. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which last summer found women almost evenly divided on which party should control Congress, now shows that women favor Democrats, 51 percent to 36 percent.

The longer this goes on, the easier it will be to come up with a national consensus about whether women’s reproductive lives are fair game for government intrusion. And, when we do, the politicians will follow along. Instantly. Just watch Mitt Romney.

 

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times Opinion Pages, March 9, 2012

March 11, 2012 - Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , ,

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