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The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

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"Woman is subordinate to man. "
Justice James Leon Holmes, Appointed to Arkansas federal court, July 6, 2004

The War Against Women
    Family Planning
    Global Gag Rule
    Partial Birth Abortion
    Unborn Victims of Violence Act
    Anti-choice Legislation
    Sex Education
    Title IX
    Abortion As a Moral Issue
    Church Groups Turn to Sonogram to Turn Women from Abortions

The War Against Women

In one sense, the Religious Right has grown in reaction to the popularity of modern feminism. This passage from the Bible, Ephesians 22-23, is often quoted to define the relationship of woman to man:

"Wives, submit to your own husband as to the lord, For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church."

A book by John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of A Man's Soul portrays "The devastating curse of women ruling over men." The book won strong praise in the Chalcedon Report, a Christian Reconstruction newsletter.

"The devastating curse of women ruling over men is getting the press it deserves today from Eldredge, Douglas Wilson, and others... Our nation is under judgment. "As the home goes, so goes the nation."

Sex As A Weapon, Jeff Sharlet,, April 25, 2005:

The problem, as [James Dobson] outlines it in Straight Talk to Men , a Dobson "classic" originally published as Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives , is that men, in a righteous attempt to resolve the problems of sexism, have ceded too much power to women. As a result, he insists, women are engaging in a parody of male headship and most men lack the guts - and the sensitivity - to stand up to them.

And, later in the article:
Every Christian man-guide emphasizes the claim that women play just as important a role in the maintenance of what evangelicals view as society's all-important unit, the family, and it's more than dishwashing, suckling, and sex (though what else they are to do is not often discussed). Women must submit to their husbands, but their husbands in turn must commit to "serving" their wives. The phrase that comes to mind is "separate but equal."

The Mainstreaming of Patriarchy quotes Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on why Christianity is inherently patriarchal. One of the commentaries following this blog disputes Moore's theology.

Concerned Women for America, claiming membership of 500,000 women, advertised in the early eighties that the group formed as "a positive alternative to the militant feminism that threatens American society." Their efforts, along with other groups of the Religious Right, succeeded in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982.

At the core of women's equality is the right of women to control their reproductive destinies. The battle over reproductive choice is an ancient battle for women to control their sexuality. From Family Research Council, one of the most powerful lobbying organizations of the Religious Right:

Feminist ideology highlights the damaging tendency of feminism's sexual liberation to undermine the sanctity of marriage and deprive women of lasting happiness.

From the New York Times, November 23, 2004:

Dispensing with legislative niceties like holding hearings or full and open debate, President Bush and the Republican Congress have used the cover of a must-pass spending bill to mount a disgraceful sneak attack on women's health and freedom.

Bush's America is waging a global battle against women's rights, Guardian Unlimited, March 8, 2005

Bankruptcy: The New Women's Issue, Demos, March 8, 2005

The Kept In The Dark Act,, June 22, 2005

The Christian Taliban
March 28, 2004, By Stephen Pizzo, AlterNet

During the Taliban rule of Afghanistan the world got a good look at what happens when religious zealots gain control of a government. Television images of women being beaten forced to wear burkas and banned from schools and the workplace helped build strong public support for the President's decision to invade Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.

But even as President George W. Bush denounced the brutal Islamic fundamentalist regime in Kabul, he was quietly laying the foundations for his own fundamentalist regime at home. For the first time far right Christian fundamentalists had one of their own in the White House and the opportunity to begin rolling back decades of health and family planning programs they saw as un-Christian, if not downright sinful.

Since 2001 dozens of far-right Christian fundamentalists have been quietly installed in key positions within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration and on commissions and advisory committees where they have made serious progress. Three years later this administration has established one of the most rigid sexual health agendas in the Western world.

Kansas Prosecutor Demands Files on Late-Term Abortion Patient, New York Times, February 24, 2005

Unwed mothers are not eligible for federal money. From the Ithaca Journal, August 20, 2004:

According to a state Department of Labor document issued to program coordinators on Jan. 24, centers will now only be allowed to use federal funds for women who can produce a divorce certificate or death certificate proving they have previously been in a legally recognized marriage.

Left out of the federal definition for displaced homemakers are those who do not meet the criteria for the word "family," including unwed single mothers, mothers and children from broken homes where a marriage certificate was never issued, mothers and children who can't afford the costs associated with obtaining a divorce certificate, and mothers from same-sex relationships.

A report in April, 2004, revealed that the Bush administration quietly removed 25 reports from its Women's Bureau Web site deleting or distorting crucial information on issues from pay equity to reproductive healthcare.

From the New York Times, December 2, 2004:

As a result of November's election, the next Senate will have a bigger, more conservative Republican majority and several new opponents of abortion - including some of the most intense abortion foes in politics, like Tom Coburn, a doctor and newly elected senator from Oklahoma, who campaigned as "a committed defender of the sanctity of life in all of its stages."

Dr. Hager's Family Values, The Nation, May 20, 2005

Planned Parenthood Is Told to Show Children's Files, New York Times, June 1, 2005

Below is a sampling of anti-women legislation coming from a Congress dominated by the Religious Right and supported by the Bush Administration.

Expendable Women, New York Times editorial, July 5, 2004:

One of the uglier aspects of the Bush administration's assault on women's reproductive rights is its concerted undermining of the United Nations Population Fund based on the false accusation that it supports coerced abortions in China.

The fund supports programs in some 141 countries to advance poor women's reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women and prevent the spread of H.I.V. and AIDS. Yet under pressure from conservative religious groups, the administration is expected to withhold the $34 million that Congress appropriated this year for these vital efforts, much as President Bush blocked the $34 million Congress approved in 2002 and last year's $25 million allocation.

War Against Women, New York Times Editorial, January 12, 2003:

"Most Americans would be shocked at the lengths American representatives are going to in their international war against women's right to control their bodies."

GEORGIA: GOVERNOR SIGNS ABORTION BILL, New York Times National Briefing, May 11, 2005

Bankruptcy reform hits women hard, Christian Science Monitor, April 4, 2005

Moral Judgments on Birth Control Endangering Women's Lives, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer April 5, 2005

Doctors Are Warned on Fetus Care, Washington Post, April 23, 2005

U.S. Judge Strikes Down State's Abortion Law, Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2005

Governor Signs Limits on Abortion; 350 Protest, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2005

Family Planning

From the International Women's Health Coalition:

"Internationally and domestically, in our courts and in our schools, at the UN and on Capitol Hill, it is no exaggeration to say that the White House is conducting a stealth war against women. This war has devastating consequences for social and economic development, democracy, and human rights -- and its effects will be felt by women and girls worldwide."

"Bush's Other War: The Assault on Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights" from the International Women's Health Coalition provides a list of relevant international and domestic actions, nominations, and appointments thus far under the Bush administration. more

The State Department has awarded an explicitly anti-feminist U.S. group part of a $10 million grant to train Iraqi women in political participation and democracy. (Reprinted in CommonDreams, originally published on October 5, 2004 by

'Plan B' contraceptive nears approval, Washington Post, March 18, 2005

The Battle over Birth Control, Salon, April 27, 2005

Justices Re-enter Abortion Debate With Case on Parental Consent, New York Times, May 23, 2005

Global Gag Rule

From Planned Parenthood's International Family Planning, Global Resource Center:

"On January 22, 2001, newly inaugurated President George W. Bush issued an executive memorandum reinstating the global gag rule on international family planning assistance. This was a highly divisive attack on reproductive rights, coming barely two days into the Bush administration and on the 28th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision." more

The New York Times editorial, January 12, 2003, "The War Against Women:"

"In resurrecting the gag rule, the new president broadcast a disdain for freedom of speech to emerging democracies, while crippling the international family planning programs that work to prevent hundreds of thousands of infant and maternal deaths worldwide each year. Most Americans would be shocked at the lengths American representatives are going to in their international war against women's right to control their bodies.

"This same crackerjack delegation also opposed special efforts to help young girls who are victims of war crimes - which most often means rape ... women's constitutional liberty has been threatened, essential reproductive health care has been denied or delayed, and some women will needlessly die." more

On Jan. 30, 2001, Robert Scheer wrote in The Los Angeles Times:

"Fully one-third of the world's workforce is effectively unemployed, and the United Nations estimates that 500 million new jobs must be created just to accommodate new arrivals in the job market over the next decade. Developing economies do not stand a chance of meeting that demand without aggressive population control. Yet Bush has chosen to cut funding for the very organizations, most notably Planned Parenthood, that work hardest to make birth control information available throughout the world."

From Nicolas Krystof of the New York Times, March 20, 2004:

President Bush has cut off the entire American contribution, $34 million a year, to the United Nations Population Fund, which organizes programs like training for midwives. That's crucial because untrained midwives sometimes do more harm than good: in eastern Chad, they deal with a breech delivery by finding two strong men to hold the woman upside down and shake her to encourage the fetus to move around.

Then there's the Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium, which helps young mothers in countries like Sierra Leone, Angola and Mozambique. The Bush administration cut off all funds to the consortium last year.

In both cases, the administration cut the funds because those groups supposedly cooperated with China's repressive family-planning program. Mr. Bush is right to complain about coercive abortions in China, but why take it out on African women?

GOOD NEWS -- on September 5, 2003, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to block the Bush Administration's efforts to expand the Global Gag Rule.

Partial Birth Abortion

Bush Signs Ban

(Photo from New York Times) On November 5, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the first-ever federal ban on abortion, despite a June 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found similar bans to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court case, argued by the Center for Reproductive Rights, struck down an essentially identical Nebraska law. To stop the new federal ban from taking effect, the Center filed a lawsuit in federal court in Nebraska on October 31 on the behalf of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. Shortly after President Bush signed the new federal law, U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Kopf for the District of Nebraska issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the abortion ban. As a result, Dr. Carhart and the three other doctors challenging the abortion ban can continue to perform safe abortion procedures without fear of prosecution. more

August 26, 2004, a federal judge ruled against the ban. From The New York Times, August 27, 2004:

A federal judge in New York ruled yesterday that a federal law banning a rarely used method of abortion was unconstitutional because it did not exempt cases where the procedure might be necessary to protect a woman's health.

September 8, 2004, a federal judge in Nebraska ruled against the ban. The Guardian Unlimited, September 8.

David Seldin, a spokesman for NARAL, a leading abortion-rights group, said:

"People have come to understand that the essence of this issue is privacy. It's fair to say that the other side did a good job of defining this bill in their terms, but the health issue goes to the heart of the matter, which is the private relationship between a woman and her doctor. It's about the most intimate and personal a decision there is as possible."

For information on the trials challenging the federal ban on abortion visit the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Website.

The Morning After Pill Banned: Federal drug regulators rejected a drug maker's application to sell a morning-after pill over the counter. (New York Times, May 7, 2004)

A strategy aimed at the states

If a fetus is declared a human being, then abortion will be declared murder. Then if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, states will not be free to legalize abortion in their state constitutions, for it will be considered murder.

In Mississippi the House passed four abortion bills on March 15 and 16, 2004 that would classify the death of a fetus as a murder unless it was induced by the mother or a medical professional she approved; and make it a felony to intentionally allow the death of a viable fetus delivered in a failed abortion. The bills now go to the Senate.

In Utah, a young mother was charged for murder for allegedly delaying a Caeserean section that could have saved one of her twins. She was sentenced on April 29, 2004 to lesser counts of child endangerment.

These are all attempts to chip away at Roe v. Wade by using the term "murder" in relation to a zygote. This strategy is most apparent in the Unborn Victims of Violence Act

Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA)

This bill is a cynical attempt to undo Roe Vs. Wade under the guise of protecting pregnant women. UUVA passed in the House, 252 to 172. It has been stalled in the Senate by Democrats and a few moderate Republicans. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice writes that the sponsors of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act claim:

"this bill is designed to protect pregnant women, even though women are not mentioned in the language of the bill. This bill is solely designed to recognize the existence of a separate legal "person," with rights distinct from those of the pregnant woman, in order to lay the foundation for eliminating abortion rights.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act would adopt one religious belief about the beginning of life -- that the fetus at all stages of development is a person -- and make it the law for all, regardless of individual beliefs. As an Interfaith coalition, we point out that government must not legislate, and thus impose, one religious view about the beginning of life on all people." more

Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has proposed an acceptable alternative to UVVA. From the Feminist Majority Foundation:

"Abortion rights advocates say the Motherhood Protection Act of 2003 (HR 2247), proposed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is a more appropriate measure, because it proposes equally tough penalties for a person who harmed or killed a zygote, embryo or fetus while attacking a pregnant woman, but does not give the zygote, embryo or fetus personhood or rights." more

On March 25, 2004, the Senate passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (S.1019) by a vote of 61-38. From Kate Michelman, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America:

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) proposed a substitute amendment that had the same structure and similar penalties as the bill that passed, but did not undermine Roe v. Wade by recognizing an embryo or fetus as a separate legal "person." This amendment failed by a very close vote of 50-49.

The only difference between the bill the Senate passed and the Feinstein alternative the Senate rejected is simple-giving separate legal status to a fetus or embryo. The reason it's there was explained by anti-abortion leader Samuel Casey. "In as many areas as we can, we want to put on the books that the embryo is a person. . . That sets the stage for a jurist to acknowledge that human beings at any stage of development deserve protection-even protection that would trump a woman's interest in terminating a pregnancy."

It's an effort that is not limited to this bill. Around the country, anti-abortion legislators have moved forward with initiatives to grant separate legal status to the fetus or embryo as early as the moment after conception. They are even getting bolder in trying to force direct legal challenges to Roe in a number of states, and in two federal courts.

From Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women: "This law is not about protecting pregnant women, but about turning pregnant women into criminals."

Anti-choice Legislation

House Passes Bill Tightening Parental Rule for Abortions, New York Times, April 28, 2005


"The cumulative effect of enacted anti-choice legislation is staggering: 335 anti-choice measures have been enacted since 1995. Until pro-choice Americans regain control of Congress and their state legislatures, the onslaught of legislation aimed at restricting women's choices and curtailing women's reproductive health options will continue unabated."

This NARAL fact sheet covers a wide range of legislation that Congress, dominated by the Religious Right, has targeted against women and girls. more

Idaho, July 16, 2004, a federal appeals court threw out a law requiring girls under 18 to get parental consent for abortions, ruling that its provisions on emergency abortions were too strict. Writing for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, Judge Marsha Berzon said there was no reasonable explanation for limiting emergency abortions without consent to "sudden and unexpected" instances of physical complications. She noted that other emergency procedures that did not fit the "sudden and unexpected" category were allowed on minors without parental permission. The court said the rest of the law could not be salvaged because the emergency provisions were too important. (AP)

Supreme Court Rejoins Fractious Abortion Debate, New York Times, May 24, 2005

Governor Signs Limits on Abortion; 350 Protest, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2005

Texas Governor Draws Criticism for a Bill-Signing Event at an Evangelical School, New York Times, June 6, 2005

Sex Education


Adolescents: Censoring Sexuality Education
The Bush administration, in an alliance with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and the Vatican, tried to block consensus on sexuality education at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children in May 2002. Success for the U.S. delegation would have prevented young people under 18 from receiving information about sexual abuse (despite increased evidence of its frequency), birth control, condoms, and reproductive health services. The Administration also favored an abstinence-only approach to sexuality education, opposing comprehensive information and services for the billions of adolescents worldwide who are or will become sexually active, including through arranged early marriage or forced sexual relationships. more

Abstinence-Only Sex Education:

President Bush's FY 2003 budget called for a $33 million increase in funding-and maintains that level in the FY 2004 budget request-for abstinence-until-marriage sex education programs. This request would bring total federal funding to $135 million. Such "abstinence-only" programs refrain from any discussion about the health benefits of contraception, including condoms, in preventing unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and HIV/AIDS. Given the diversity of these programs, combined with few rigorous studies of their impact, there is as yet no compelling evidence that "abstinence-only" programs delay the initiation of sex or reduce teen pregnancy.

Further, the "abstinence-only" approach has no value for adolescents who are already sexually active (two thirds of teenagers have sex before their 18th birthday). In contrast, strong evidence exists that young people who receive comprehensive sexuality education become sexually active later than other teens, have fewer partners, and are more likely to use contraceptives when they do have sex. Perhaps this is why 8 in 10 Americans favor comprehensive programs for adolescents over the abstinence-only approach. more

Sierra magazine, January-February, 2004, has a feature article on abstinence-only education in the public schools. Federally funded programs are based on fear and end up proselytizing. A Louisianna state judge has ruled that the proselytizing must stop or the programs risk defunding.

"For Louisianna seventh graders, abstinence-only education appears first and foremost to be about terrifying diseases: suppurating boils, endless rashes, sterility, cancers, and the physical and psychic morbidity with which they are to be punished for having sex before marriage."

"Hundreds of federally funded abstinence-only programs are run by faith-based groups. The Louisianna American Civil Liberties Union found that ... thousands of dollars went to programs that included prayers as well as continuous referrences to God, Jesus Christ, and the spiritual repercussions of sex before marriage."

Through skillful lobbying and influence, the Religious Right has radically changed funding for sex education, shifting congressional and state subsidies to programs that do not provide vital health information. more

From, December 9, 2004: Bush Signs Omnibus Spending Bill, Including Abortion-Related Provision, Increase in Abstinence Funding

Title IX

Title IX opened up sports for women. It also opened the doors to higher education by providing athletic scholarships to women. From the Women's Equity Resource Center:

"Title IX has provided the impetus for great successes and significant change within the United States. Doors that were previously closed have been opened. Females who attended schools prior to 1972 experienced sex-segregated classes, denial of admissions to certain vocational education classes, lack of access to advanced mathematics and science courses, and overt discrimination in medical schools and other predominantly male institutions. The passage of Title IX and other educational equity laws removed many of these formal, systemic barriers." more

From a New York Times editorial, February 17, 2003:

"Title IX, the landmark law that has greatly expanded opportunities for girls and women to engage in sports, is in danger of being watered down. A Bush administration commission has recommended changes that would give schools, colleges and universities more leeway to favor men's and boys' athletics. There is nothing wrong with helping men's and boys' programs, but not at the expense of women and girls. more

Title IX Opponent Confirmed to US Court of Appeals, Feminist Majority, June 15, 2005

Abortion as a Moral Decision

From, January 25, 2005:

While religion is often used as the basis for a pro-life position, faith can also be the foundation of believing in a woman's right to choice . Recognizing the 32nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing issued an open letter on "Abortion as a Moral Decision." The letter calls on religious leaders to support the women of their communities no matter what their reproductive decisions may be. In addition, the leaders underscore the need for comprehensive sexuality education, contraception and reproductive health services, and counsel for both those who decide to carry pregnancies to term and those whose make the difficult decision to terminate. READ THE LETTER


Church Groups Turn to Sonogram to Turn Women from Abortions, New York Times, February 2, 2005

The Bush Team's Abortion Misstep, New York Times, March 5, 2005

U.S. Drops Anti-Abortion Demand at Forum, New York Times, March 3, 2005 Bankruptcy Bill Is Arena for Abortion Fight, New York Times, March 8, 2005

GEORGIA: GOVERNOR SIGNS ABORTION BILL, New York Times National Briefing, May 11, 2005

"You spent all this money and all this blood to bring an Islamic republic here." more


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Last updated: November-2005