Reproductive Rights in the Presidential Campaign Crossfire

As the 2012 presidential campaign season drags on, contraception and abortion remain hot topics of debate for conservatives battling out the primaries. While the left remains mostly on the defense (though one can certainly point to the Komen and Planned Parenthood controversy to see how quickly the feminist blogosphere can move into action!), the right continues to aggressively attack women’s rights and control over their own sexual health and freedom.

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney fluctuates as front runner, largely holding his place in the lead. Romney has sustained the longest position as front runner despite challenges from Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum who have all taken the lead at some point during this race which continues to Arizona and Michigan on February 28th.

So where does Romney stand on choice? Like with most issues, Romney’s position has flip-flopped, though he did liken the recent expansion of health care coverage of contraception by Obama to an attack on religion. And as the battle for the nomination by the Republican party continues, Romney’s rhetoric is likely to become more visceral. As explained by The Huffington Post, “In recent days, Romney has sensed a Santorum threat and has sought to prove that he, too, has strong conservative stances on social issues, despite a history of reversing himself on abortion and gay rights.” Women’s reproductive rights and gay rights serve to be excellent kindling with conservatives looking to prove to voters who can be the most staunchly anti-choice and anti-gay.

Perhaps the most violent of the attacks on reproductive freedom, tantamount to rape, are the “personhood” bills in Virginia, Texas and Iowa promoting a trans-vaginal ultrasound of any woman seeking an abortion. As RH Reality Check reports, “While it may be true that the ultrasound bill will not pass in Iowa, these attempts at passing forced ultrasound bills and other anti-women legislation must continue to be called out no matter if the bill will pass or not. And like Texas and Virginia, the Iowa ultrasound bill could lead to forced trans-vaginal ultrasounds.” The consideration of these bills during an election year is no small matter.

The presidential candidates must be made to answer for these bills pushing to roll back reproductive choice, assaulting women’s bodies. Obama’s extension of health care coverage of contraception should be celebrated, but he must also boldly stand for a woman’s right to choose lest women’s reproductive rights become bartering chips in the political bargaining process.


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