With the recent rise of Republican Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, we’re sure to hear a couple of words again and again as the right-wing’s quest to rebuild America continues:
I can’t help but cringe every time I hear that catchphrase. Not because I dislike families – I have a terrific one of my own, thank you very much – but because I have to wonder WHOSE families those wingnuts are talking about. Why did they get to appropriate the phrase?
What I also wonder is this: Why is the word “family” code for a lot of social conservative dogma that is not only irrelevant to what raising a real family is all about, but more importantly, leaves women – who do the bulk of that raising – out in the cold?
In the interests of real family values, I vote that we reclaim the term for ourselves.
But back to Santorum, whose message apparently resonated so well in Iowa: Let’s start with reproductive rights, wherein Mr. Santorum goes way beyond the pro-life position by suggesting that contraception itself is a dangerous practice — whether you’re married or, God forbid, single. As reported on ThinkProgress, Santorum told CaffeinatedThoughts editor Shane Vander Hart,“[contraception] is not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” How things are supposed to be, he said, is for the purpose of procreation. Here’s the video.
An extreme position? Not completely. You may recall that many conservatives in Congress recently voted to defund Planned Parenthood even though abortions only make up 10 percent of the services it provides to women without other means of health care, and that abortion services receive no federal funding. And here’s the irony: As the Guttmacher Institute points out:
Publicly funded family planning services help women to avoid pregnancies they do not want and to plan pregnancies they do. In 2006, these services helped women avoid 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, which would likely have resulted in about 860,000 unintended births and 810,000 abortions
Access to contraception is also an issue of women’s health. Here in the U.S., the Institute of Medicine recently came out with guidelines that urge health insurance under President Obama’s health care overhaul to include FDA approved contraception as preventative care. Why? Proper spacing of pregnancies can prevent a host of serious health risks for both mother and child.
And while we’re at it, here’s another case in point: the Affordable Care Act, which Santorum and the rest of those family values folks want to repeal. Let’s review. Who suffered most under our health care system of old? Women. And when women suffer, it’s often the kids who pay the price. So much for those family values. Lest you forget how our old health care system affected women: pregnancy was a pre-existing condition. Women, especially when they have kids, are statistically more likely to work part time jobs that do not provide health benefits — which is fine so long as they can depend on a well-employed husband for job-related health insurance. But what if he loses his job? Or what happens to the kids if mom happens to be single? (Oh, that’s right. Family values don’t apply to single mothers.)
There’s even something more basic when it comes to so-called family values: putting food on the table, and for the majority of the 99 percenters, this has become an ever-more difficult proposition. While it would be ever so Norman Rockwell for every family to have a mom (or, hello, a dad) at home with the kids, where in this economy is that even feasible (that is, if mom and dad are lucky enough to have jobs)? As HuffPost blogger Dan Bimrose notes over there on the politics page:
A Rick Santorum candidacy would be a family values candidacy. The family unit is extremely important to working class America. It is to these working class voters he was addressing and referring to when he said:
“They share our values about faith and family. They understand that when the family breaks down, the economy struggles. They understand when families aren’t there to instill values into their children and into their neighbors as Little League coaches, as good neighbors, of fathers and mothers being part of a community, that the neighborhood is not safe and they are not free…”
The implication is that the Democrats are responsible for broken families. If the breaking up of American families is truly the cause of our economic failures, which is an incredibly weak argument, he may want to point his finger at Republicans like himself.
What he fails to mention is that the reason that the parents are not there to instill values into their children and coach their baseball teams is because those mothers and fathers are working their ass off. While Republican governors such as the likely former candidate for President Rick Perry seek praise for their ability to create minimum wage jobs, the people working those jobs realize they simply do not pay the bills. They need two of these jobs and their wives need one and none of them provide adequate health care.
And how about the fact that women still make 77 cents to a man’s buck? Or the fact that for many women — the ones working to help put that food on the table — affordable child care is nothing but a pipe dream because as a society, we’ve never made it a priority? And what happens to the kids when neither mom nor dad can find a job, or if they do find one, it only pays minimum wage? And yet: the same folks who hold up the sanctity of the family are often the ones who vote to dismantle social welfare programs like Medicaid or food stamps. Or vote against extending unemployment benefits.
The so-called family values folks would also have us believe that gay marriage threatens not only the social fabric of our nation, but our own marriages as well. Really? Exactly how does that work?
The list goes on, mainly arguments of privilege. But then, if you’ve ever been part of a family, you probably get it. Maybe prayer in school, opposition to gay marriage, and blowing up the safety net are the kinds of values that made your family strong. But I seriously doubt it. If the health of the American family is what we’re after, the values that matter most are more along the lines of equal opportunity, access to good health care and quality education, and above all, an abiding sense of compassion.
On the other hand, I do agree with Santorum et al. on one thing. The American family is indeed under attack. The question is: by whom?
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