During one of the endless Republican debates early in this election cycle, the moderator asked Mitt Romney a question about contraception. My recollection is that Romney seemed totally taken aback by the question because of its seeming irrelevance to a campaign for the Presidency in 2012. It may have been his most genuine moment other than talking about his marvelous wealth. I was similarly astonished by the question, but it just goes to show how out-of-touch both Romney and I were with the current Republican Party.
It did not take long for contraception to rise to the fore when the debate over requiring health insurers to cover birth control became a central issue in the campaign to elect a President. Predictably, Republicans said it had nothing to do with a woman’s ability to control her own body, but was a matter of religious freedom. It reminded me of a moment in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton when Clinton’s attorney, former Senator Dale Bumpers, said, “When they say it’s not about sex … it’s about sex.”
That issue may have faded, but it is becoming clear that women and their right to make their own decisions about their health will be a constant flashpoint whenever Republicans gather. Let’s not forget that soon after the Tea Party representatives took office in 2011, one of their most important priorities was to restrict a woman’s right to choose. When Congressman Todd Akin opined that doctors had informed him that a raped woman had the ability to prevent a pregnancy because of some mysterious biological capability, top Republicans became concerned. The concern was not over the realization that an idiot was running for the United States Senate under the GOP banner, but that he might lose the election because of views the Republican Party prefers to keep hidden until they control the government.
Akin’s views on abortion – that not even rape, incest or a threat to the woman’s health would justify an abortion – are shared by Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and are part of the Republican platform that will be voted on this week. Indeed, Ryan and Akin co-sponsored legislation that would have restricted abortions for rape to only “forcible rape,” a precursor to Akin’s bizarre concept of “legitimate rape.”
Where is Mitt Romney on this? His views on Akin’s asinine comments “evolved” as more and more top Republicans came out against the Missouri Senate candidate. He went from “disagreeing” to asking Akin to stop his candidacy because “I think he should accept their counsel [Missouri voters] and exit the Senate race.”
So, one of our two major political parties believes that the government requiring health insurance is tyranny, but the government requiring that a woman exercising a constitutionally-protected right – abortion – first have an ultrasound probe inserted in her vagina, even though there is no medical justification for this insult.