Lately we’ve been awash in a debate over the term “radical Islamist.” Should we use it or not? For my money the answer is yes. In addition to savage beheadings and mass shootings, they want to send women back to the stone age.
But as a woman in the U.S., I don’t fear them nearly as much as I fear the “radical Christians.” In the hinterlands of New Mexico where I live, women in veils are as scarce as dodo birds. It’s the men in dresses that I’m afraid of. They and their bosses in Rome and lackeys in legislatures want to send women back to the back alleys – a much more immediate threat.
The Republicans in the U.S. House are obsessed with denying women the right to control their own bodies. In states like mine, local bishops are urging state lawmakers to follow suit and ban abortion, in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 42 year-old Roe v. Wade decision. Meanwhile, the Pope visits the Philippines and laments the number of kids living parentless in the streets, and the next day rails against birth control. Go figure.
And it’s not just the radicals already in office that we ought to fear. The Republican crop of presidential wannabes is in formation – and they’re marching in lock-step with the Catholic hierarchy and other fundamentalist leaders when it comes to women’s most basic rights. To a man they’re anti-abortion (though unlike the pope some of them believe in birth control).
Mitt Romney is one of the new entrants, this time around planning to flaunt his religion as a qualification to lead the country. He’s a former bishop and regional leader in the Mormon Church, which declares itself Christian. It also declares itself opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment that would put women on equal footing with men in the constitution, “because of its serious moral implications.”
Rand Paul believes there is “too much government in the private lives of Americans,” but assures us that doesn’t apply when it comes to women. He believes fertilized eggs have more rights than female people.
Disrespect for women’s medical privacy is also true of leading anti-abortion contender Jeb Bush, and he proved it as governor of Florida. During the controversy over Terri Schiavo, he ordered that a feeding tube be reinserted into her brain-dead body, despite her husband’s wishes and court orders that the tube be removed.
Son-of-a-preacher Scott Walker, who formed a committee on January 16th, is opposed to abortion even for rape and incest. During his political career as a state legislator and Governor of Wisconsin, he has defunded Planned Parenthood, sponsored a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions for “moral reasons,” coauthored a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, sided with Hobby Lobby in its refusal to provide birth control in its health care plan, signed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds and doctors to show the woman the image of the fetus, and indicated that he would back a fetal personhood bill, which elevate the legal rights of zygotes over those of women. Whew!
Even second stringers like ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee have strong anti-abortion credentials, and intend to let religion be their guide if elected. While Governor of Arkansas, he denied Medicaid reimbursement for an abortion on a 15-year-old child who was raped by her stepfather. Huckabee says he wants “to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.” How is that different from Sharia law?
I don’t mean to be giving radical Islamists a pass — or any other religionists who commit murder and oppress women in the name of their prophet. But at least for now, the Islamic jihadists don’t have their sights on a full-blown takeover of the U.S. government. The Republican party does, and they’ve already shown where their radicalism lies.
Martha Burk is the author of Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics and the Change We Need! and Cult of Power: The Inside Story of the Fight to Open Augusta National Golf Club, and How It Exposed the Ingrained Corporate Sexism That Kept Women Down.