As many feminists invest their life fighting for women’s rights to be the center of attention – no one could predict the occurrences of this election year. In my previous post “Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime!” Carol P. Christ made a comment about women’s issues and politics:
“I have been waiting all my life for women’s issues to become central in an election campaign, but I guess I should have been more specific in my wish: this is not the format I imagined…”
Christ’s reaction is like so many others in the election; no one could have imagined such a bizarre and backwards slide being lobbied against women’s rights. Issues being bantered around continue to be rooted in a purported pro-life stance. This ranges from trans-vaginal ultrasounds, definitions of “legitimate” rape, and now using an Ob/Gyn’s “best guess” to define the gestational age of a baby from the time of a woman’s last period. This is not a game – this is semantics, this is politics, this rhetoric, and frankly, this needs to stop.
It is no secret that politicians are well versed in the game of rhetoric, employing strategists who focus on ways to increase votes to win elections. I try to wrap my thoughts around a woman supporting a group of men, who seek to strip her of freedoms. I know they exist because many were at the Convention and even on stage supporting their candidate for President.
Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright offers one explanation to this question:
“I think there are some who believe they [the Republicans] are actually protecting women, you know, and that it is better for women to be taken care of. I think women want to take care of themselves, and I think having a voice in how that is done is very important. And frankly, I don’t understand — I mean, I’m obviously a card-carrying Democrat — but I can’t understand why any woman would want to vote for Mitt Romney, except maybe Mrs. Romney ”
I have a hard time understanding how any woman could support Romney and Ryan. I am also embarassed and outraged at the comments coming from Republicans when advocating (or attempting to advocate) a staunch pro-life platform.
Albright, found Republican Todd Akin’s “statement that a rape victim can shut down her body to avoid pregnancy to be “one of the more outrageous” comments she’s witnessed in her 75 years.”
”It was appalling and disgusting,” she said. “But if I may say so, the things that he said in one form or another are in the Republican platform. So [while Republicans are] saying he is a nutcase and they have to move away from him, they did not move away from their platform.”
I agree with her observation as well as her perception that the party platform has not changed. If the Republican platform is truly pro-life, does it reach beyond the womb? Does it provide for the dignity of the human person from womb to tomb?
To answer these questions, one must examine their stance on the death penalty, healthcare, and other programs that care for the well-being of human life from the moment of conception until a person takes their last breath. This, to me, includes providing support to women who choose to have babies, the single mothers in the world, the under employed as well as the unemployable. This includes the ability for people to obtain skills, even in higher education. This also includes the care of our elderly, who are, so many times, put in Medicaid funded homes and denied medical treatment, prescriptions, and even a quality of care that allows them to maintain their dignity until their last breath is taken. The list goes on and on.
Last night, Sr. Simone Campbell addressed the issue of dignity through a social justice lens, illuminating the issues where the Republican Party’s falls short. First, there are problems with the proposed budget:
“Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.”
“We all share responsibility for creating an economy where parents with jobs earn enough to take care of their families. In order to cut taxes for the very wealthy, the Romney-Ryan budget would make it even tougher for hard-working Americans like Billy to feed their families. Paul Ryan says this budget is in keeping with the values of our shared faith. I simply disagree.” Sr. Simone Campbell
Second, healthcare, another pro-life issue and a key focus of the Sisters’ Nun on the Bus Tour, was a large part of Sr. Simone’s speech last night. Sr. Simone gave several examples of people making sacrifices to take care of ailing family members:
“I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper. While we were in Toledo, I met 10-year-old twins Matt and Mark, who had gotten into trouble at school for fighting. Sister Virginia and the staff at the Padua Center took them in when they were suspended and discovered on a home visit that these 10-year-olds were trying to care for their bedridden mother who has MS and diabetes.”
“In Cincinnati, I met Jini, who had just come from her sister’s memorial service. When Jini’s sister Margaret lost her job, she lost her health insurance. She developed cancer and had no access to diagnosis or treatment. She died unnecessarily. That is tragic. And it is wrong.” – - Sr. Simone Campbell
As Sr. Simone eloquently points out, care for the whole person throughout their life, the love and dignity that we give to that person, falls under the definition of pro-life:
”We all share responsibility to ensure that this vital health care reform law is properly implemented and that all governors expand Medicaid coverage so no more Margarets die from lack of care. This is part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do.” - - Sr. Simone Campbell
It is apparent that the Republican platform falls short of being truly pro-life on the basis of budgetary proposals, economic plans, and healthcare. What illuminates this contradictory stance of being pro-life is the party’s support for the death penalty.
One example is Republican Governor of Texas Rick Perry who authorized 234 executions in more than a decade as Texas governor. This is more than any governor in the United States. Between 1976 and 2010, the national total of executions in the 36 death penalty states was 1,226. Also, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney favors capital punishment. In fact, statistically, 80% of Republicans support the death penalty.
During a presidential debate last year, the crowd erupted into applause when Perry stated:
“In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.” Gov. Rick Perry
When examining these words, which are spoken by and garnered support for so many Republicans, I must point out that supporting the death penalty is a stance against life. This is a very simple point and something that is overlooked, not only by Republicans but by their supporters.
The problem with the Republican pro-life platform is that the issues promoted in a pro-life context are selective and, for the most part, rooted in the area of reproduction – more specifically with regard to a woman’s body. There is a spin on the Republican party’s platform that has the potential of bringing home the pro-life vote. Once again, the pick and choose methodology continues to impact women and we have a smoke and mirrors approach to promoting a pro-life agenda rooted in the issue of abortion and contraception.
I return to Carol P. Christ’s statement at the beginning of this post and ask – when is the election going to be about women’s issues in a positive way? Maybe in four more years? I hope well before that time.
Michele Stopera Freyhauf is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Durham University. She has a Master of Arts Degree from John Carroll University in Theology and Religious Studies and is an Adjunct Instructor in the Religious Studies Department at Ursuline College. Her full bio is on the main contributor’s page or at http://johncarroll.academia.edu/MicheleFreyhauf. Michele can be followed on twitter at @MSFreyhauf.
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