What Does the Church Think? Women’s Rights Framed as Religious Question In V.P. Debate

Two debates into a four debate format, we have now seen all four members of the opposing campaigns debate the issues most important to the American voters.  In that total 180 minutes of debate time, topics traditionally considered to be “women’s issues” have been discussed for exactly six minutes.

That’s 3.3 percent of the total discussion.

In less time than it takes to smoke a cigarette, in less time than the federal government mandates for bathroom breaks, in less time than it takes to listen to “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones, last night the Vice Presidential candidates paid lip-service to a woman’s right to choose not just whether to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, but even the right to prevent that pregnancy in the first place with easy access to affordable contraception. Her right to do so wasn’t presented as a given — even though legally and ethically both should be. Instead, it was couched as a question of morality under a religious framing, as if Catholicism, and not a woman’s personal autonomy, should be the deciding factor of a woman’s right to control her body.

“How does your faith shape your position on abortion?” should never be a question asked of political candidates. For one thing, a person’s faith shouldn’t be an issue that voters need to be wary of when it comes to choosing a candidate to support. What a person believe personally and what is legal, what is constitutional, and frankly, what is fair and just, is how a politician needs to promise to govern.

But even more so, it frames a woman’s choices as something on which the church is allowed to be the final authority.  In essence, the moderator is saying, “Will you let the leaders of your faith dictate what rights women have or will you buck your bishops and let women have the same right to control their bodies that men are allowed?”

As the recent polling showed, the vast majority of Catholics themselves aren’t concerned with whether leaders follow the mandates passed down by the church. They use birth control. They want to chose when and if they will have children. Male and female, they conclusively want control over their families to belong to them, not a hierarchy of faith leaders. Yet when the time comes to talk about these issues, the question being asked isn’t what women want, how they want to shape their own lives, or what science and evidence says, but whether the beliefs of the church should supersede that or not.

As women, we are watching our own rights erode daily at the hands of our politicians. Now, we appear to be watching our permission to even participate in the debate erode as well.

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  • crowepps

    “The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.” Martin Luther, Works 12.94

    “Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for.”  Martin Luther, Works 20.84



  • nico

    When Raddatz first aksed the question, I also felt the religious framing was misplaced — in fact, I cringed. But as it it turns out, the religious framing created an opportunity for Ryan to show that he would indeed impose his religious views on others, while it allowed Biden to assert the principle that his own personal views will not and should not override the the principle of religious freedom.

     I agree that the the religious framing is highly problematic, as the real issue is one of individual rights and bodily autonomy. But the reality is that reproductive rights ARE framed and debated in religious terms by the anti-rights side, and so having a defense of repro rights emerge from the center of a religious framework was a rhetorically powerful move.

     Whether that was Raddatz’ intention, I don’t know. But I thought Biden handled it beautifully. Ryan, on the other hand, gulped hard, and essentially said that even if Roe wasn’t directly overturned, if would effectively be circumvented by a patchwork of state and local law.

     I found the contrast between the two stark and telling.

  • waterjoe

    Yes, the question should not have been framed as a religious issue.   However, it was Biden, not Ryan, who gave a religious based answer.  Ryan said that his position was based on “reason and science.” 

  • waterjoe

    Yes, the question should not have been framed as a religious issue.   However, it was Biden, not Ryan, who gave a religious based answer.  Ryan said that his position was based on “reason and science.” 

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Faith-based “science” brought us the witch trials.

  • colleen

    Ryan said that his position was based on “reason and science.” 

    Mr Ryan also regards rape as “just another form of conception.”   His position on any issue affecting women is based on contempt and hatred. Now, go away.

  • forced-birth-rape

    St. Augustine said, “Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders.”

    Martin Luther wrote: “God created Adam lord of all living creatures, but Eve spoiled it all. Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear children. And if a woman grows weary and, at last, dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing; she is there to do it.”


    “Anders Behring Breivik christian terrorist, pro-forced-birther, killed seventy seven people.

    What he thinks about womens rights, women need to breed, breed, breed.

    1. Limit the distribution of birth-control pills (contraceptive pills): Discourage the use of and prevent liberal distribution of contraceptive pills or equivalent prevention methods. The goal should be to make it considerably more difficult to obtain. This alone should increase the fertility rate by 0,1 points but would degrade women’s rights.

    2. Reform sex education: Reform the current sex education in our school institutions. This may involve limiting it or at least delaying sex education to a later age and discourage casual sex. Sex should only be encouraged within the boundaries of marriage. This alone should increase the fertility rate by 0,1 points.

    3. Making abortion illegal: A re-introduction of the ban on abortion should result in an increased fertility rate of approximately 0,1-0,2 points but would strip women of basic rights.

    4. Women and education: Discourage women in general to strive for full time careers. This will involve certain sexist and discriminating policies but should increase the fertility rate by up to 0,1-0,2 points.

    Women should not be encouraged by society/media to take anything above a bachelor’s degree but should not be prevented from taking a master or PhD. Males on the other hand should obviously continue to be encouraged to take higher education – bachelor, master and PhD.”


    “Self-Described ‘Christian Counterpart To Osama Bin Laden’ Arrested In Plot To Bomb Abortion Clinic

    Justin Carl Moose describe “himself” as the Christian counterpart to Osama bin Laden.

    Moose wrote:

    “I have learned a lot from the muslim terrorists and have no problem using their tactics.”

    Each year about 890,000 women have abortions in Pakistan, and every day 10 women die because they had an unsafe abortion. Some 560,000 Filippina women have unsafe illegal abortions every year, with 90,000 suffering complications from the procedure and 1,000 dying.~


    Pro-forced-birthers favorite piece of literature of all time.

    Genesis 3:16

    “I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing; with spasms of distress you will bring forth children. Yet your desire and cravings will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”


    “In the 1800′s when chloroform was introduced to the US to help ease the excruciating pain of childbirth for women, it was woman-hating Christians who fought against its permitted use on the grounds that easing women’s childbirth pain was contrary to God’s will. They cited the book of Genesis where God punishes women with the curse of pain in childbirth.”


    What pro-forced-birthers think of raped little girls.


    “Church excommunicates mother of 9-year-old rape victim – but not accused rapist.”

    A senior Vatican cleric has defended the Catholic Church’s decision to excommunicate the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old rape victim who had a life-saving abortion in Brazil.”

    “Police believe the girl was sexually assaulted for years by her stepfather, possibly since she was six. That she was four months pregnant with twins emerged only after she was taken to hospital complaining of severe stomach pains.”



    The southern baptist wife beating convention is the second biggest pro forced birth group in the world, after the child raping catholic church.


    “TIME ranks Southern Baptists’ rejection of sex-offender database as a top “underreported” news story of 2008″


    These people want more unwanted, unloved, unprotected, unvalued, virgin children to sexually terrorize, I know, I grew up with them.

  • thalwen

    Yeah Ryan’s answer is based in science. The GOP has really showed itself to be a scientifically informed party, with the GOP’s House members of the science and technology committee asserting among other things that evolution, global warming are tools of the devil, that clear-cutting forests prevents global warming.. oh and that women’s bodies have ways to shut down rape sperm. The last one was from Todd Akin, someone who was Ryan’s co-sponsor on a large number of anti-abortion bills. 

    And his reasoning, that seeing his kid’s ultrasound proved her to be a living person deserving more rights than his wife, purely based on science an reason.

  • crowepps

    “REP. RYAN: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, about how to make sure that people have a chance in life.

    Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course, but it’s also because of reason and science. You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born for our seven-week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. Our little baby was in the shape of a bean, and to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child, Liza, “Bean.” (Chuckles.)

    Now, I believe that life begins at conception.

    That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life.

    Now, I understand this is a difficult issue. And I respect people who don’t agree with me on this. But the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

    What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through “Obamacare” with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals. Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious — religious liberties.

    And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they want it to be safe, legal and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding, taxpayer funding in “Obamacare,” taxpayer funding with foreign aid. The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized or wouldn’t second- guess their one-child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That, to me, is pretty extreme.”


    The first assertion in the last paragraph is incorrect.

    “Ryan claimed that the ACA contains “taxpayer funding” of abortion. In fact the law provides no direct funding of abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life. And it’s a matter of interpretation whether subsidized private insurance would amount to indirect federal support for abortion.”


    The last statement is a distortion.  Biden did not say anything about he wouldn’t second-guess forced abortions or sterilizations.  Instead he said he wouldn’t second-guess a policy of one child per family, but the policy wasn’t sustainable if the elderly were to be supported.  His statement was actually

    “You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family,” Biden said, according to the official transcript of the event. “The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.” 



  • forced-birth-rape

    “While Paul Ryan seems to have changed his tune on so-called “forcible rape,” he recently said that he still opposes any exceptions to bans on abortion because rape is just another “method of conception.”

    “I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life,”


    What pro lifers think of women and their babies, proof they just want to hurt women and little girls, and they do not give a tiny damn about babies.

    “House Republicans have been facing a backlash after voting for a plan authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that would dismantle Medicare while cutting taxes for the rich. But that plan also included deep cuts in discretionary spending, the destructiveness of which is becoming more apparent as the budget process moves forward.

    For instance, the Republican budget would implement a 15 percent cut in the agency tasked with policing oil markets, even with energy speculation at an all-time high. That same portion of the budget — which is being



    marked up by the House Appropriations agricultural subcommittee — would also cut $832 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that provides low-income women and children with food, counseling, and health care