There are myriad ways to make a statement supporting a principle, particularly when the principle is founded on a deeply-held religious belief. One might think of people praying openly in public, wearing a graven image of a crucifix, or appealing to strangers to come to church as a statement of support for a religious principle. However, for a senatorial candidate from Iowa, the way to show support for a religious principle is voting for a constitutional amendment that effectively eliminates a woman’s constitutional rights, and then claim the amendment really would not do anything at all. Obviously, only a Koch-funded teabagger-Republican from Iowa would have the gall to claim they voted for an amendment with such severe consequences as a religious statement and lie that it “wouldn’t really do anything.” If she is anything at all, Joni Ernst is a lying Koch-funded teabagger, and an anti-woman’s rights evangelical.
During a debate Sunday evening with Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA), Ernst defended her vote for the Catholic Bishops’ proposal granting full constitutional rights to a zygote. The so-called “personhood” amendment favored by the Vatican’s Humanae Vitae Ernst voted for would have changed Iowa’s Constitution to guarantee that the instant a sperm cell punctured an ovum, the resulting single-celled zygote would enjoy the same constitutional rights the personhood amendment effectively took away from the mother. Braley noted that the personhood amendment Ernst introduced was an attack on women’s reproductive rights and told her “I respect your faith, I have my own faith that is very deep and personal to me. But let’s be clear: The Cedar Rapids Gazette did a fact-check on the amendment that you introduced that said it would do all the things that I said it would. That it would ban contraception, it would prevent people from getting in vitro fertilization, and you personally said that doctors who performed those procedures under your bill should be prosecuted.”
Braley was not exaggerating because he referenced a statement from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warning about the dire consequences to women’s health inherent in Ernst’s Catholic amendment. The OBGYNs said, “Like Mississippi’s failed ‘Personhood Amendment’ Proposition 26, these misleading and ambiguously worded ‘personhood’ measures substitute (religious) ideology for science and represent a grave threat to women’s health and reproductive rights that, if passed, would have long-term negative outcomes for our patients, their families, and society. This would have wide-reaching harmful implications for the practice of medicine and on women’s access to contraception, fertility treatments, pregnancy termination, and other essential medical procedures.”
Ernst was left with little option but to resort to the typical religious right Republican tactic of claiming Braley was lying and that he was anti-women and trying to mislead women voters. She said, “When it does come to a woman’s access to contraception, I will always stand with our women on affordable access to contraception. That’s something that Congressman Braley has been trying to mislead our women voters on. The amendment that is being referenced by the congressman would not do any of the things that you stated it would do. That amendment is simply a statement that I support life.” Ernst is a liar; a statement that one support’s life is holding up a fetus sign at an abortion clinic or screaming at women going for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood; not banning all forms of birth control and criminalizing medical procedures that contradict the Vatican Humanae Vitae. Personhood elevates a fetus over the woman carrying the organism and follows the Pope’s dispensation that any unnatural form of birth control is a mortal sin against god. A mortal sin, by the way, that Ernst said would be punished by the government “only if the legislation would have passed,” and that is the real and present danger for women if Ernst is a member of a Republican-controlled Senate.
For the each of the past three years Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced “personhood legislation” that mirrors the Catholic Personhood movement’s demands included in the amendment Ernst introduced in Iowa and adamantly supported until she realized subverting women’s rights is not necessarily a winning campaign issue. One might think that in religious Iowa personhood would be a winner, but in seriously religious Mississippi, voters summarily rejected a similar personhood measure after real medical professionals like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned about the “grave threat to women’s health” as well as “long-term negative outcomes for our patients, their families, and society.”
Ernst is not the only Republican Senate candidate trying to distance herself from their passionate personhood support to win more women voters, but there are many who continue embracing the idea with Party support. The New Hampshire Republican Party added personhood language into its official platform earlier this month, and the RNC made calling for a personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution a major plank of the party’s platform for the 2012 general election. It is still a primary theocratic goal of Republicans to ban contraception, abortion, and punish women, married or otherwise, for having, as Hobby Lobby advocates complained, “consequence free sex.” It is noteworthy that the religious right and Hobby Lobby supporters’ opposition to women making their own reproductive health choices is part and parcel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope’s Humanae Vitae prohibiting any form of “unnatural” birth control. Something the religious right only began embracing with biblical passion in the 1980s after their tax exempt status was threatened for pushing school segregation in the former Confederacy.
It was encouraging to see Ernst’s opponent, Bruce Braley, remind Iowa’s women voters about the contempt Ernst has for women and their rights. What he failed to do, though, is note that elevating the rights of the zygote over those of the mother subjects the woman to second-class status and loss of her 14th Amendment protections from religious Republicans intent on depriving women of their life and liberty as well as deny them equal protection of the laws.” One would hope that other Democratic congressional candidates will remind prospective voters that Ernst is not an outlier in the in the religious Republican movement and reference the annual personhood legislation introduced in the House and Senate. If Republicans control both chambers on Congress, women’s reproductive health choices will be limited to staying barefoot and pregnant or celibate. Because personhood legislation follows Catholic dogmata to the letter and forbids any unnatural birth control or fertilization or pregnancy cessation which is precisely what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has demanded for over thirty years. Unfortunately for American women, along with the Catholic Supreme Court, religious Republicans are just one election away from giving the Bishops precisely what the Vatican ordered.