Republican Debate: Not Just Anti-Choice Rhetoric

The Republican presidential debate gathered together most of the candidates in Durham, North Carolina last night – with the noticeable absence of Fred "I'm declaring tomorrow" Thompson (who is finally scheduled to throw his hat in the ring today).

After the debate plunged (no pun intended) headfirst into Larry Craig and family values territory, Governor Romney was asked about his position on abortion. Attempting to grasp Romney's position on abortion rights is like trying to catch a fish covered in oil bare-handed – you'll never get a firm grip on it, I promise. In 1994, while enjoying the support of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Romney nobly declared that "…as a nation we recognize the right of all people to believe as they want…and not to impose our beliefs on other people. I believe abortion should be safe and legal in this country." In 2002, when running for Governor of Massachusetts, Romney declared again that he was pro-choice and would protect a woman's right to choose. Meanwhile, he was once again endorsed by Massachusetts Citizens For Life for his support of parental consent laws, opposition to tax-payer funded abortion and the Freedom of Choice Act.

Since declaring his candidacy for President of the United States, Romney has been forthcoming about his anti-choice platform. He has proudly sparred with Senator Brownback on who is the more "pro-life." During last night's debate, when asked about abortion and his vision for an eventual constitutional amendment to ban it, Romney firmly stated that while he would like to overturn Roe v. Wade because "we'd love to have an America that didn't have abortion", he favors a more gradual approach to criminalizing abortion. Step 1: "Allow the states and the elected representatives of the people and the people themselves to have the ability to put in place pro-life legislation." It's unclear how this differs in any way from what states and "the people" are already doing. But his intent was clear: allow legalized abortion in the states that want it. Governor Romney also acknowledged that there are two lives to consider in the abortion debate and urged voters to "have concern for both lives."

Governor Huckabee's opposition to a woman's right to access abortion, however, extends to the right to contraception as well. It's too easy to overlook how the majority of the Republican candidates' anti-choice stances are really just umbrellas for their antagonism towards women's sexual autonomy.

Huckabee's efforts in his home state of Arkansas led to the passage of a "Human Life Amendment" stating that life begins at conception. If life begins at conception (which is not an uncommon position amidst the Republican presidential candidate crowd), how does one square birth control methods that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg and NOT conception?

The answer: one doesn't.

This much is clear: if a presidential candidate believes, states, supports the idea that life begins at conception and that we should enact policies based on this belief, watch out. Garance at TAPPED has decoded it for us. Your birth control pills, your IUD, your Plan B and other future forms of hormonal contraception being researched right this very moment, are in danger of being outlawed should this candidate get elected.

Senator Brownback's anti-gay marriage position sounded particularly bizarre in light of the latest Republican sex scandal involving Larry Craig and the greater hypocrisy of the entire Republican religio-extremists. Calling gay marriage a "vast social experiment", Brownback said, "When you take the sacredness out of marriage, you will drive the marriage rates down." Amidst a cloud of cheers and boos, Brownback attempted to defend his position by citing how much better off children are when they are not born "out of wedlock." But as Amanda will discuss in next week's episode of RealityCast on Monday, September 10th, I wouldn't automatically look to heterosexuals (like those who trot out their children on television morning shows) as the paragon of parenting virtue.

The next Republican debate is scheduled for Sunday, October 21st in Orlando, Florida.

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  • invalid-0

    Im a 14 year old who is pro choice not because im promiscuos (spelling) but because i am a woman and i believe i should be in charge of my own body

  • invalid-0

    Thank you for commenting! Your voice, as a young woman, is so important when we talk about what reproductive rights means – and you said it so clearly: as a woman, as a person, you have the right to be in charge of your own body!

    What feels frustrating for me is that somehow you have absorbed the message that if, as a young woman, you believe you have the right to make decisions about your own body, this somehow means your promiscuous. This absolutely untrue. Supporting a woman’s right to choose has everything to do with supporting equality and freedom for women.

    Young people in this country are surrounded by unhealthy images of sex and sexuality wherever you look – on TV, in magazines, on the web. But you’re not given the tools to navigate healthy sexuality. We need to take responsibility for the health and well-being of young people!

    Your comment is thoughtful and articulate and I appreciate your courage. Though you cannot vote yet, you can support candidates and encourage others to vote for candidates who support not just abortion rights but comprehensive sexuality education for young people, access to contraception, global women’s health issues, HIV/AIDS prevention, and the full spectrum of maternal health care for all women.

  • invalid-0

    I believe that the conservative approach to birth control in this country will continue to contribute to what I call a “brain drain” among girls and women. As more young women become sexually active and have drop out of school to deal with unintended pregnancies, this will cause a dip in the learning curve for the entire country. Therefore, we should not be surprised if more jobs are being sent overseas to other countries where you have more birth control, better access to abortion, and a more intelligent work force.

  • invalid-0

    I’m a man in my early 40s, raised as a very conservative Catholic, who has come to understand that a woman’s choice regarding her own pregnacies are hers alone. The notion that “human life begins at conception” which I was raised to believe absolutely and uncritically, will not stand up to any rational scrutiny; only declarations based on faith can explain this belief. I think that the only ethical approach is also the only practical one; women will in fact decide, taking the matter very seriously, whether they should or should not carry any pregnancy to term. If we respect and support this decision (including of course, avoiding any intrusion into her privacy she doesn’t invite) then we can be sure that the women who choose to continue intend to have their baby, and her choice, and her pregnancy, makes that new human life possible. Vice versa, women who choose not to also choose to abort as early as they can, long before any reasonable degree of human function can begin to develop–or they are tragically disappointed that a baby they wanted is not going to be possible, due to some medical misfortune–these are the women who choose late abortions. So we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by simply trusting the pregnant women to make their choices, and backing them all the way.

    Anti-choicers often ask the rhetorical question, “if conception is not the line between human and non-human, where is it then?” I say–that “line” is called “pregnancy,” and it’s nine months thick.