9 Ways to Halt the Right Wing Culture Wars and Bring Sanity to Sexual Policy
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The recent electoral victory of Barack Obama and the Democratic party presents a unique opportunity to overturn the most perverse policy of the Bush administration and the religious right, the conservative repressive sexual agenda. The following nine proposals can help frame a new sexual agenda to be introduced in the first 100 days.
For the last three decades the religious right fought a take-no-prisoners war over popular morality. Taking power with Bush’s victory in 2000, Christian conservatives were finally in the position to impose their beliefs as public policy. And they did so with a vengeance. At the local, state and federal levels, religious zealots, working through the Republican party, took control of the apparatus of the State and aggressively implemented a diverse set of programs to further their goal of creating a morally upstanding, Christian society. Family life, sexual relations, education, scientific knowledge and popular entertainment became battlegrounds of
the culture wars.
The culture wars played a decisive role in the 2000 and 2004 elections, but were eclipsed in the 2006 Congressional elections, the religious right’s moral fervor spent. While sex issues were all but absent from the 2008 national presidential campaign, they did help rally the conservative faithful at the state level. Efforts to outlaw gay marriage were successful in Arizona (Proposition 102), California (Proposition 8)and Florida (Marriage Protection Amendment) as was Arkansas’ Proposed Initiative Act No. 1 that prohibits co-habiting couples of the same sex, whether gay or straight, from either adopting a child or serving as foster parents.
Nevertheless, efforts in Colorado (Amendment 45) and South Dakota (Initiated Measure 11) to, respectively, establish “fetal personhood” and ban abortion failed. And in Washington, voters approved a proposition permitting physician-assisted suicide similar to one already in force in Oregon. In 2008, it was the collapsing economy, failed Bush policies and culture-war fatigue as well as Obama’s broad popular appeal that turned the tide for the Democrats.
The Democratic landslide provides a unique opportunity for Congress and the President-elect to quickly address at least one of the many profound failings of the Bush administration, its repressive sex policies. The following proposals can help frame the upcoming battle for political reform and, hopefully, finally put an end to the religious right’s culture wars.
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Proposal #1: Safeguard Roe v Wade
President-elect Obama was a co-sponsor of the 2007 Senate version of the Freedom of Choice Act (S. 1173) that would reaffirm Roe as a fundamental right. As he stated: “Throughout my career, I've been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.” Congress should pass and Obama should sign the Freedom on Choice Act.
If enacted, the law would effectively overturn many state and federal restrictions imposed over the last eight years on a woman’s ability to choose an abortion. In particular, the Act would lift requirements on health-care providers to provide questionable medical “information” about the risks of having an abortion; lift restrictions limiting abortion providers to only licensed physicians; lift parental-notification and approval requirements for minors seeking an abortion; and overturn the dubiously-named “partial-birth abortions” laws.
One of the critical features of the Roe decision was establishing personhood at the moment of birth. As evident in Colorado voters’ rejection of the “fetal personhood” proposition, the notion of personhood at the moment of conception is a veiled attempt to undercut Roe. Medico-scientific advances are pushing the moment of birth earlier and earlier before full-term is reached, with an increasing number of ever-smaller preemies living healthy lives. This is a remarkable accomplishment and should only strengthen the need to ensure that personhood remains at birth.