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The Santorum Legacy: The Fertility Wars And “The Race To The Dark Ages”

That Rick Santorum made it this far in the GOP primary shows just how much his views on sex and reproduction resonate with the most religious part of Republican base. The fact that he made it this far by attempting to relitigate the importance, usefulness, and morality of contraception, and getting the country to even discuss it, shows how much Mitt Romney will be forced to contend with the mark Santorum has left on the campaign.

To be sure, with or without Santorum, Romney would have had to address the contraception coverage mandate that has revitalized an anti-contraception movement in the guise of “religious freedom.” But it was Santorum who first brought issues of sex and reproduction to the fore of the presidential campaign, even before the insurance coverage issue made national headlines.

Just days after he won the Iowa caucuses (at the time, he was a close second until additional votes were found and counted), Santorum began the race to the dark ages:

Rick Santorum thinks Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case that invalidated criminal bans on contraception, was wrongly decided. He’s off the deep-end on this one, and completely out of touch even with his fellow Catholics, but his statement provoked an exchange at last night’s debate about whether states should be permitted to ban birth control.

Mitt Romney feigned surprise — and emphasized that he would be absolutely, positively against banning birth control — but the moderators failed to ask him about his enthusiastic support for “personhood” bills that would effectively ban certain kinds of birth control (not to mention fertility treatments). Santorum turned the question to be all about the Griswold ruling on a “penumbra” of rights created under the constitution, anathema to conservatives because of how it underpins Roe v. Wade, and, as Chris Geidner points out, Lawrence v. Texas. They claim these rights are not actually found in the Constitution but were created by “activist judges” — this from the people who think the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection to fertilized eggs.

At his press conference today, Santorum alluded to reproduction and procreation by praising the family as “the moral enterprise that is America,” and by specifically thanking the 19 Kids and Counting Duggars for campaigning for him. It might have sounded like a standard political homage to wholesome family life, but to anyone who knows Santorum’s views, it was an homage to uber-fertility. As Kathryn Joyce noted here last week, it rings of Quiverfull:

It’s the movement that looks to the Duggar family as de facto spokespeople (even if the Duggars have often hedged whether or not they consider themselves a part of it), and that so venerates the role of proud “patriarch” fathers leading their families—comparing them to CEOs and generals—that it’s easy to see where Harris’ appraisal of Santorum’s family-man qualifications come from. In this election, and the birth control debate that has become a significant part of its soundtrack, the convictions of the Quiverfull community seem to have made a mainstream debut.

Santorum’s speech this afternoon was suffused with other religious imagery, calling Good Friday his family’s “passion play” because of his daughter Bella’s hospitalization; he talked about “witnessing” for Americans’ stories and voices, and belief in miracles. Miracles, that is, for the true believers, not the Kennedys who want to keep religion out of governing, or the mainline Protestants whose congregations are supposedly in shambles, or the believers in “phony religion.”

Santorum brought rhetoric into the race that many conservative activists routinely deploy but few politicians with national aspirations dare to use. “We were winning in a very different way, we were winning hearts, we were raising issues that other people didn’t want to raise,” Santorum said today. Many of his fellow Republicans probably didn’t want him to raise them, and now they’re stuck with them, even with Santorum gone.


By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, April 10, 2012

April 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ron Paul Vs. Birth Control: So Much For The Right To Privacy

Last year, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul introduced a bill in Congress that would allow states to ban contraception if they choose.

Paul’s “We the People Act,” which he introduced in 2004, 2005, 2009, and 2011, explicitly forbids federal courts and the Supreme Court of the United States from ruling on the constitutionality of a variety of state and local laws. That includes, among other things, “any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction.” The bill would let states write laws forbidding abortion, the use of contraceptives, or consensual gay sex, for example.

If passed, Paul’s bill could undermine the most important Supreme Court case dealing with contraception—1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut. In that case, the high court found that a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraception was unconstitutional based on a “right to marital privacy” afforded by the Bill of Rights. In other words, the court declared that states cannot interfere with what happens between the sheets when it comes to reproduction.

Paul’s bill would also keep the federal courts out of cases like Roe v. Wade and 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, in which the justices found that privacy is a guaranteed right concerning sexual practices and struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law as unconstitutional.

It’s well known that Paul, like the other remaining GOP presidential contenders, is no fan of abortion or gay people. But the issue of contraception access is one that has not received nearly as much attention.

Paul’s bill hasn’t received much support in the House. It has no cosponsors and has never made it to a vote on the House floor. But that’s not its biggest potential problem: “I don’t think it would be constitutional to strip the court of that power,” said Bebe Anderson, director of the US legal program as the Center for Reproductive Rights. “You certainly couldn’t do it by law—you’d have to amend the constitution to do that.”

Paul’s campaign did not respond to a request for a clarification on the intent of the his proposed law with regard to contraception. But as Addie Stan notes over at Alternet, Paul’s response to a question about the Griswold ruling during a January presidential debate provides hints about what he might say. “As far as selling contraceptives, the Interstate Commerce Clause protects this because the Interstate Commerce Clause was originally written not to impede trade between the states, but it was written to facilitate trade between the states,” Paul said. “So if it’s not illegal to import birth control pills from one state to the next, it would be legal to sell birth control pills in that state.”

Paul is saying, in short, that his bill wouldn’t actually ban the sale of contraceptives, which would be protected under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. But that’s an extremely unorthodox interpretation of the Commerce Clause, according to several lawyers Mother Jones contacted. The clause typically only deals with whether or not Congress has the ability to regulate interstate business. Paul is correct that the Commerce Clause would prevent a state from banning the importation of birth control pills from another state. But absent a constitutional right to privacy, states could still bar their citizens from buying or selling birth control within the state. “The right to access contraception has not been based on the Commerce Clause in my understanding,” explains the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Anderson.

Among the other GOP candidates who have weighed in on Griswold, Rick Santorum has said he thinks the Supreme Court made the wrong decision. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, square danced (as usual) around the question at the same January debate, first asserting that he “would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception” before waffling on the question of whether states should be able to enact their own bans. “I don’t know whether a state has a right to ban contraception,” he said. “No state wants to…and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing, I think.”

Romney is wrong to suggest no state would contemplate banning contraception. Mississippi considered a ballot measure last November that would likely have done just that. And if Paul has his way, no court would be able to strike down such a law.


By: Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones, February 14, 2012

February 15, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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