By Nancy L. Cohen
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Nancy L. Cohen says the roster of GOP presidential contenders is bringing 40 years of sexual counter-revolution to a crescendo. The party's rightwing social agenda is so secure it barely merits any mention.
(WOMENSENEWS)--Perhaps if the pill had not been invented, the race for the Republican presidential nomination would be going very differently.
In case you missed it, Mitt Romney serendipitously scored a rare laugh in a debate leading up to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary when he waved away a question about states outlawing birth control. "Contraception; it's working fine," he said. "Leave it alone."
If only we could take him at his word.
Romney succeeded in his effort to evade scrutiny about whether he shares the far-out views of his party's base on birth control,abortion and gay civil rights. Those are topics he really doesn't want to talk about.
But the rest of us should not let Romney and the other candidates off the hook so easily. We should be vocal about exposing the GOP's campaign to turn back the clock.
Just 50 years ago people in Connecticut were arrested, fined and sentenced to prison for distributing birth control to married couples.
Forty-five years ago a Massachusetts man was prosecuted and imprisoned over the state's quaint "Crimes Against Chastity" statute for exhibiting and providing birth control to an unmarried woman.
The Supreme Court put an end to these violations of individual liberty. In 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut, the court ruled that there was a marital right to privacy embedded in the Bill of Rights that bars states from banning contraception. That right to privacy is the foundation for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision guaranteeing a woman's legal right to abortion. In 1972, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the court extended the rights articulated in Griswold v. Connecticut to unmarried men and women.
The GOP is now attacking that legal bedrock.
From personhood amendments that define a fertilized egg as having legal rights to defunding Planned Parenthood's family planning services, undermining access to birth control is front and center on the Republican agenda.
This disproves the commonplace idea--popular among TV punditsand politicians alike--that these elections will only be about the economy, not social issues.
The past several weeks of the Republican presidential race should put that to rest. Republican voters may tell pollsters that the economy is their No. 1 issue, but that's only because a rightwing, social agenda is already secured.
The most extreme elements of the anti-abortion and anti-gay movements effectively eliminated all candidates who dared to deviate from their dogma.
Jon Huntsman's defense of same-sex civil unions in lieu of gay marriage used to be polite opinion on the Republican right; now it's a heresy that disqualifies even a true conservative.
Only four years ago Sarah Palin tried to downplay the fact that she thought abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest. Now GOP candidates explicitly (or, in Romney's case, surreptitiously) favor endowing fertilized eggs with individual rights.
Rick Perry proudly proclaims he has seen the light and incest and rape victims must be forced to bear the child of their abuser. With the rise of Rick Santorum, an avowed opponent of mothers who work, I almost miss Palin.
How did we get to this place? Many readers here might remember the anti-feminist women's campaigns against the Equal Rights Amendment, publicly funded child care, sex education and gay civil rights of the 1970s.
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