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Knocked Up: Republican Presidential Candidates' Plan for American Women

Birth control is under attack by all of the candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination.

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Paul took the punt as an opportunity to pivot into a riff on the Patriot Act, failing to mention that, just two years ago, he introduced a bill that would have allowed states to ban birth control, effectively overturning Griswold. (Paul's " We the People Act" died in committee.)

Santorum has stated that contraception, in and of itself, is simply wrong. "Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay," Santorum told a blogger at Caffeinated Thoughts in October, Salon's Irin Carmon reported. "It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be," he added.

But it was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the twice-divorced recent convert to Catholicism who really got the anti-contraception party started at a campaign event in Florida, when he piously announced that he and third wife Callista had just come from attending Mass, where the priest read to the congregation a letter from the bishops about the ostensible assault on the church's religious freedom by the Obama administration's new healthcare regulations. As Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches reported from the scene, Gingrich essentially lied to his supporters, saying that the Obama administration was making Catholic institutions provide abortion coverage to their employees.

In his primary speech the following night in Orlando, Gingrich coupled his pugnacious attacks on Obama for allegedly conducting a "war on religion" with vicious swipes at Romney, whom he termed "dishonest." Just moments later Romney picked up Gingrich's "war on religion" theme in his own primary-night victory speech, albeit packaged in the slightly softer language of "religious freedom."

A Festival of Fecundity

Early on in the campaign, fecundity emerged as a theme, as the candidates with the most populous families touted their numbers at each campaign stop. Santorum never fails to mention his seven home-schooled children, or Romney his five sons and 16 grandchildren. Ron Paul chimes in from time to time about his five children and 18 grandchildren, while Gingrich omits the numbers while noting that he is a grandfather. (In a major fecundity #fail, Gingrich's three marriages yielded only two children, which raises suspicion of contraception use.) Also-rans Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, and Rep. Michele Bachmann also flaunted their large families as assets to a base that has become increasingly hostile to the right of women to control their own fertility.

It is perhaps a natural evolution of the decades-long, right-wing campaign to overturn legalized abortion. At the time  Roe v. Wade was decided in 1971, the theological belief that abortion was murder was particular to the Roman Catholic Church; most Protestant denominations considered abortion to be a sin, but not the taking of a human life.

Around the same time, a handful of politically savvy right-wing Republicans saw among a certain strain of conservative Southern evangelical Christians the potential for organizing a right-wing political movement. Preying on the conservative Christians' fear of a society that was rapidly changing, thanks to the movements for civil rights and women's rights, organizers sold these largely anti-Catholic Protestants on a theological position that was essentially Catholic.

Among the handful of men who organized the religious right, two of them, Richard Viguerie and the late Paul Weyrich, hailed from the Roman Catholic Church, and chafed at the liberalization of certain church teachings that took place in the early 1960s. Together with former Nixon administration bureaucrat Howard Phillips, who was raised Jewish but converted to a right-wing form of Christianity, and the Southern Baptist Ed McAteer, Weyrich and Viguerie tapped the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, a segregationist Southern Baptist minister, to lead their cause, and the religious right was born with the fight against abortion the movement's loudest rallying cry.

 
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