by E.C. Fish on February 25, 2012

With ascendent Presidential hopeful Rick “The Mix” Santorum and the House Republicans having launched a crusade against basic family planning, it’s worth taking a long moment to consider the implications of their quixotic and breathtakingly unpopular effort on the Republican party and, should they be restored to power, on the nation. With a deeply authoritarian and antidemocratic redefinition of conscience as their touchstone, they are trying to redefine some basic rights and our most basic human relationships in their image.

Once again, Republican priorities, at least as expressed by the only body of government they control (give or take the Supreme Court) and one of their possible candidates for President, lie in unpopular crusades and and declarations of war. In this case, they are casting themselves quite literally as crusaders, defending Christendom against a President some of them literally think is a Moor and everything he represents. But while this may have begun as just another reactionary Republican response to an Obama initiative– codifying a contraceptive coverage requirement that is already black letter law in over half of the states into Federal law under the Affordable Care Act– it has continued into a bona fide escalation in the culture wars, with some mind blowing collateral damage and much more proposed.

Like most wars of men– and hearings this week in the House courtesy Darrell “Please Step Away From The Car” Issa (R-CA) proved nothing so conclusively as the cold fact that this is indeed a war of men– it is being fought most profoundly on the bodies of women. The logic, such as it is, seems to go like this– women’s bodies are where babies happen, and thus “people of conscience” have a proprietary interest in those bodies and those prospective babies that quite supercedes any rights those individual women might have to privacy and individual choice. Not to mention basic preventive health care– Planned Parenthood, which is where abortions happen according to these people (though they don’t mean it as a factual statement, because it isn’t), has been attacked and defunded repeatedly despite being the primary health care provider to millions of women nationwide. Not to mention dignity– Republicans in Virginia proposed a bill requiring women seeking first trimester abortions to undergo a medically unnecessary intravaginal ultrasound procedure, effectively making needless rape by instrumentality a requirement for a legal and constitutionally protected medical procedure in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Similar requirements exist in Texas, and have been proposed in Iowa.

Note that phrase “prospective” babies”. “Personhood” standards currently making the rounds and being defeated at ballot boxes and in state legislatures set the protective standard at first contact of sperm and egg, effectively classifying an entire spectrum of effective contraceptive choices allowed to women as chemical abortion in the face of extensive reproductive science to the contrary.

Save, of course, abstinence. Santorum bankroller Foster Friess’ recommendation of aspirin between the knees was just the drunk uncle’s bad joke version of what is not just a side effect but a separate agenda unto itself. Santorum himself has made it clear that his objection to contraception comes from the fact that he considers it a “sexual libertine idea… a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to the way things are supposed to be,” defined as heterosexual sex between spouses for procreative purposes. In a country where lots of different kinds of people have lots of different kinds of sex for lots of different reasons (that is, any country populated by human beings), this “way things are supposed to be” would represent a radical alteration of the way things really are.

That Santorum has branded the majority of sexually active Americans as sexual libertines, and announced that one of his priorities as President will be to bring the full force of government to the cause of seeing they don’t get any, really begs the question of what exactly he and his supporters are trying to accomplish with this Republic of Gilead shit in an electorate they have declared largely infidel. The most obvious, and most cynical, answer is power– Santorum is trying to wrest the Republican nomination for President from the hands of political wind sock Mitt Romney, and the impression that he believes strongly in just about anything, particularly in something that riles the religious right yahoos who seem to be in effective control of the nominating process, has at least in the short term proven an effective strategy. So much so, in fact, that it seems to have been adopted wholesale, with various degrees of embarrassment, by all of Santorum’s rivals for the nomination, up to and including Ron Paul, and by down ticket Republicans nationwide.

However frightening naked cynicism can be, and however handy it comes in when thinking about conservative Republican politics, it doesn’t really seem to apply here, and what does is a bit more frightening. What Santorum, conservative House Republicans, and Tea Party identified Republicans in several state houses and Governor’s mansions are trying to accomplish with this Republic of Gilead shit is more or less the Republic of Gilead. We are dealing with zealots here who sincerely believe that their personal relationship with God gives them an absolute duty to regulate the most personal human relationships there are, and consider it an affront to their religious liberty to live in a world that doesn’t strictly adhere to their world view. Their conscience is God-given– the expression of any other conscience is an affront, democracy and inalienable rights be literally damned.

Those of us who don’t share and live by their beliefs– that is to say, most of us– are probably protected from this by sheer number, at least on a national scale, provided we can stop fornicating long enough to exercise the franchise. It should give us long pause, though, that an agenda this unscientific, anti-democratic, and counter to public opinion should come to dominate the Republican party, and thus the national political conversation in a country that has plenty of other things to talk about. As beleaguered as the distinction might be, there is such a thing as the public business, very little of which takes place in the sexual realm.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Pavelich February 25, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I just stood up and cheered!


dave February 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I puzzled over the bizarre anti-birth control crusade for a while. After all, it’s in the best interest of the GOP to wrap up the nomination as soon as possible, and this fundie stuff just strengthens the underdog Santorum, yet the main force of the GOP noise machine (FOX News, talk radio, Congress) has gotten in on it. Why would the supposedly smart ones do something so politically counterproductive?

But I think you glanced past it here – that birth control that relies on female biology (namely birth control pills and IUDs) are, to true believers, abortion. And if they’re consistent about their life-begins-at-conception position, they’re right. The pill and IUDs can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. That, in pure pro-life terms, is murder. Birth control methods that work only by preventing initial fertilization (abstinence, condoms) are not the same offense.

But out in the Real World, 98% of all adult women have used the pill or IUDs at some point in their lives, and most of the rest are still virgins. And most men have relied on their partner’s use of these types of birth control. So they CANNOT politically afford to come out and say that the Pill and IUDs should be banned and doctors who prescribe them and women who use them charged with murder. So we get this back door attack through insurance.


jids February 25, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Even Barry Goldwater hated these evangelical twits.


Tom March 1, 2012 at 10:59 pm

This is how my calendar reads for Tuesday, Nov. 6:

No fornicating. Go vote.


kirk July 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm

It’s not really women they’re afraid of. It’s sex.


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