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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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The adoption of this point of Catholic theology by evangelical Christians marked something of a truce, especially in the South, where anti-Catholic sentiment had been one of the hallmarks of fundamentalist Christianity. By the dawn of the 21st century, that uneasy truce had grown into an alliance between right-wing Catholics and conservative evangelical Protestants.

Now evangelical Christians of the right appear to be adopting yet another Catholic theological talking point: the purported sin of contraception. At its most extreme, this anti-contraception evangelical crusade manifests as the Quiverfull movement, which writer Kathryn Joyce has termed the " Christian patriarchy movement" -- a world in which the tenet of "wifely submission" is teamed with the rejection of contraception to create enormous families for the purpose of winning the demographic battle for right-wing Christian hegemony.

This melding of the misogynist elements of Catholic theology with Christian right patriarchal extremism finds its most sublime expression in the endorsement of the very Catholic Rick Santorum by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The Duggars, the poster family of the Quiverfull movement, star in the TLC reality show, "19 Kids And Counting."

"He's a proven Christian conservative," Jim Bob Duggar said of Santorum during a CNN interview at an Iowa campaign stop last month. "He has always done what's right."

As an adherent to the doctrine of wifely submission, Michelle Duggar, mother of 19, might be loathe to disagree, even if she wanted to.

Birth Control and the General Election

While the war against women may play well in the Republican base, it could backfire on the GOP in the general election -- but only if Democrats seize the moment with framing and messaging of their own to counter the right's false allegation of an antipathy toward religion by Democrats and the president.

We know that Catholics don't do what the bishops tell them to, and that, in fact, the unified, monolithic "Catholic vote" the bishops would have you believe they can deliver simply no longer exists. Catholic voters have long voted much the same as the general population, divided more along lines of race and class than by their Catholic identity.

Signs of hope for the Democrats are to be found in the enormous push-back suffered by Susan G. Komen for the Cure in response to the breast cancer-awareness organization's decision last week (since somewhat rescinded) to pull funding for breast-cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood clinics.

Polls show what demographers call an "enthusiasm gap" between likely Democratic and Republican voters in the 2012 elections, with Democrats currently on the losing end of that equation. If Republican candidates keep up their attack on contraception, they may find a suddenly energized contingent of women voters determined to keep them from taking power.  

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington correspondent. She also writes for the AFL-CIO Now blog. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/addiestan

 
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