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Are Church and State Really Separate?

March 20, 2012

Cassandra Savidge ’12

Rick Santorum plans on making an appearance today, March 20th, at the Gettysburg Hotel.  So, it seemed the perfect opportunity to review the Washington Post’s recent article, Rick Santorum’s journey to devout Catholicism, view of religion in governance and his political views in respect to their effects on women voters.  In the political realm, it is understood that there is a separation between church and state.  The current abortion and contraception issues pressed primarily by the Republican candidates, including Rick Santorum, blur the lines between religiosity and politics in the United States.  Santorum, a devout Catholic, is known now as a flip flopper amongst the politicos.  For example in his 2005 book, It Takes a Family, Santorum states, “I didn’t like the idea of abortion — I knew it was wrong, but I wasn’t sure if it was the government’s business to do anything about it.” Now he is a pro-life advocate, and recently stated that it is “absurd” to leave one’s Catholicism aside in conducting politics. He is quoted as saying, “as an American, and as a public figure, I am deeply troubled by this turn away from God.”

This leads to the current issues surrounding abortion and contraception today.  Both Texas and Virginia, among other states, have attempted to pass laws requiring women who receive abortions in the state to first undergo a transvaginal ultrasound, each of which is being reviewed for constitutionality.   In addition to these procedures, an uprise among religious groups gave way when the Affordable Care Act included contraceptive coverage by employer health insurance, ensuring women the right to accessible birth control.  Special interests of religiously affiliated employers with religious morals against abortion and contraception do not want to financially provide assistance for a decision they do not support.  But the cost to consumers for birth control is expensive, especially for younger individuals, without the aid of insurance.  As a result, the guidelines were altered to state that insurance companies, not religiously affiliated employers who oppose covering birth control, would be required to alleviate the payout cost to its customers.  Both cases directly correlate with religious and moral beliefs affecting political decisions.

These issues are not only in Texas and Virginia but across the nation.  Abortion and contraception have always been a point of debate but who would have thought it would have become a focus in the 2012 Republican campaign for president.  Since the first ban on birth control was lifted in 1938 by Margaret Sanger, the debate has continued.  It wasn’t until 1972 birth control was legalized for all citizens of the United States.  So, birth control has been legal for a mere forty years!  This statistic is almost incomprehensible to our youngest generation.  Abortion has also caused controversy and after the decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973, both issues concerning women’s health have regressed.   The Hyde Amendment passed in 1980 in the Harris v. McRae case turned Roe v. Wade on its head.  The amendment took the assistance of Medicaid away from women receiving abortions.  This in turn, directly discriminated against women who could not afford the out of pocket costs of the procedure.  The decision has been upheld to this day and abortions are becoming  more difficult everyday for women to receive.

It is believed that one of the greatest breakthroughs for women in the past four decades has been birth control.  Prior to contraceptives, the age and rate at which women had children was much greater than it is today.  As a result women are able to go to college, further their education and exercise family planning methods.  Nothing is set in stone in the laws of our nation and if there is an issue which pertains to any one of you it is important for you to voice your opinion and stand up for it.  Do this by voting for the officials which hold the views you believe to be just and upholding your own interests.  The above article about Santorum shows ideas which he supports as a politician.  If you take anything from this article, I hope you find the desire within yourself to learn more.   Go to see Santorum, pick up the newspaper, and educate yourself on the issues of today because the knowledge you gain today will affect you tomorrow.

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