Rick Santorum and more: How social issues intruded on 2012 campaign
In an election year that was supposed to be all about economic recovery, social values having to do with sex – birth control, abortion, and gay marriage – are playing prominent roles.
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Abortion has been a hot-button political issue ever since the US Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. But it’s taken another twist lately as opponents of legalized abortion seek to change the law or at least restrict the practice.Skip to next paragraph
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Another Republican governor who could be the GOP’s vice presidential nominee – Bob McDonnell in Virginia – says he’ll sign just-passed legislation that would force all women seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound procedure. Not only is that physically invasive and medically unnecessary, critics say, but it requires that women who decline to view the ultrasound image or listen to the fetal heartbeat have that fact recorded in their medical record.
In the presidential race, GOP hopeful Rick Santorum has been the most outspoken on such issues.
Santorum says he would bring back the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals in the military, favors a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and has said that as president he would talk about “the dangers of contraception in this country.”
Santorum also wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned. (He has said a woman who becomes pregnant through rape should "make the best out of a bad situation")
How do most Americans feel about all of this?
By about two-to-one, according to public opinion surveys, Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
As of last year, polls began showing that a majority of Americans approve of gay marriage.
Generally speaking, birth control is mostly a settled issue too, and that includes for most Catholics. (Only two percent of Catholic women rely wholly on the “rhythm method” allowed under church doctrine.)
Regarding “religiously-affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university,” respondents to a CBS News/New York Times poll last week were asked: “Do you support or oppose a recent federal requirement that their health insurance plans cover the full cost of birth control for their female employees?" Sixty-one percent said “yes,” 31 percent said “no.”
In their party’s primary elections and caucuses, Republicans know they face voters who are a lot more socially conservative than the general electorate. Hence the deference to “family values” positions.
But for Santorum – to his credit, say supporters – his positions on abortion, gay rights, and birth control are rock-solid and heartfelt. Still, having moved into frontrunner status, even he realizes that there are limits to what he can espouse.
Seeking to clarify the difference between personal belief and political reality the other day he said, "My position is birth control can and should be available.”