Rick Santorum is a bottomless cup of repulsive, dangerous and misguided views. He's a radical far-right Republican who, in spite of this seemingly endless primary process, hasn't choked on his own tongue yet -- at least from the point of view of conservative Republicans. The rest of us remember his ridiculous "blah people" remarks from last month, but I imagine his use of a Southern Strategy dog whistle only helped his reputation with primary voters.
Nevertheless, his comparatively chokeless campaign appears to have elevated Santorum to be the latest driver of the GOP clown car even though, at the outset, he was pegged as one of those quadrennial D-list candidates who would drop out of the race before or immediately following Iowa. Instead, he won Iowa along with three more states this week. Who knows how long Santorum's night in the sun will last or whether he's permanently stymied the Romney campaign. It doesn't matter. The fact that he's gained such prominence since being crushed and humiliated in his home (swing) state of Pennsylvania in 2006 is both an indicator of Republican desperation for a solid contender and yet another warning about the increasing radicalization and marginalization of the party.
At no other time has this been more apparent than during this fight over birth control.
Over the weekend, Santorum said, "[I]nterestingly enough, here is what they are forcing them to do -- in an insurance policy, they or forcing them to pay for something that costs just a few dollars. Is that what insurance is for? The foundational idea that we have the government tells you that you have to pay for everything as a business. Things that are not really things you need insurance for, and still forcing on something that is not a critical economic need, when you have an economic distress, where you would need insurance. But forcing them even more to do it for minor expenses."
That's right. Apart from being a jumbled grammatical mess, Santorum said that birth control costs "just a few dollars." It's so inexpensive, in fact, it shouldn't even really require insurance and it's not an "critical economic need." At first glance, I thought Santorum might just be confused. Maybe he's thinking about condoms, which are inexpensive. But Santorum has been demagoguing the birth control issue for many years and he knows what's what.
As though the idea of bargain basement contraception wasn't silly enough, Santorum followed up this nonsense by warning that the president's birth control policy would lead to public beheadings.
The reality is that prescription birth control costs upwards of a thousand dollars per year, in some cases much more. Not that reality matters to a party that's chiefly built around wafer-thin bumper sticker slogans and doing the exact opposite of the president regardless of how cartoonish it makes them look.
But let's take Santorum at his word. Since birth control pills and devices are so cheap, why don't you send your medical bills to Rick Santorum. Seriously. Send a copy with or without redacting your name to:
Rick Santorum for President
PO Box 37
Verona, PA 15147
Include both the cost of your OB/GYN visits and your prescriptions, and don't expect to be reimbursed by the Santorum campaign for obvious reasons. At the very least, however, we can consider such a gesture a retaliatory strike against the ongoing Republican war against women -- a war, by the way, which the Republicans are winning by attrition.
At this point, I could go through the point-by-point case for why access to affordable birth control is crucial for women's health. I could write about the self-evident truth that birth control mitigates the risk of unintended pregnancies and, subsequently, abortions. I could cite all of the other various medical reasons why birth control is prescribed -- from regulating menstrual cycles to preventing ovarian and uterine cysts. I could write endlessly about how anti-abortion Republicans, if they're truly determined to reduce abortions, should be demanding free and universal healthcare for pregnant women who might otherwise need to terminate their pregnancies for financial reasons. I could also remind the Republicans that Americans who object to the use of birth control aren't being forced to use it and that employers aren't being forced to directly finance the purchasing of birth control for their employees.
None of that matters to these paleoconservatives.
They're engaged in a war against women as part of an effort to maintain a ruling elite of white males. That's all that matters. A transformational process within the party has been engaged by zealots who are increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of America. While the Democrats continue to run a plate-spinning act, frantically but admirably representing both the middle, center-left and far-left, the Republicans have desperately lashed themselves to one faction: Rick Santorum's far-right extremist base, and, consequently, they're losing touch with moderates, independents and liberals (obviously). So in order to motivate its remaining voter base, the modern Republican Party has become so virulently anti-woman, anti-minority and anti-compromise that even their sainted hero, Ronald Reagan, would find his party unrecognizable. The white Christian conservative power structure has been painted into a corner and they're freaking out about it.
As Rachel Maddow documented on her show the other night, most of the anti-abortion "life begins at conception" laws being passed by Republican legislatures will also restrict access to birth control since most birth control prevents implantation of a fertilized egg.
With this series of anti-choice and anti-contraception laws on the books in various southern and midwestern states, the Republican Party is hastily constructing an ideological and legislative Berlin Wall around itself.
If you're a woman with reproductive medical needs, you're unwelcome there -- in fact, and without hyperbole, you're being targeted as a potential murderer in red state America.
Unless something happens to reverse this trend toward reproductive and sexual criminalization, America will indeed return to being "half free" with northern states maintaining affordable and accessible healthcare for women, while southern states will continue to subjugate women with archaic, misogynistic laws. Women within these states will have only two lifestyle options: they can either be celibate or they can be married and pregnant. (It's no surprise that Rick Santorum won the endorsement of the Duggar baby factory.) Everyone else will have no choice but to leave, which is precisely the goal, allowing self-defined "morally superior" white Christian men to rule without obstruction within their walled-off conservative throwback utopia.
That is unless there's a serious and immediate retaliation. Women are a demographic majority and can still win this. Send Rick Santorum your medical bills and work against any politician who votes to restrict your access to healthcare -- especially those politicians who seek to criminalize it.