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Opinion » Editorial

The Republican War on Women

President Obama's healthcare reform law requires Catholic hospitals to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives to their employees.

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Republicans like wars. Iraq I and II, Afghanistan, and now (potentially) Iran - they've been gung-ho for 'em all. But now they've embarked on a project that's ambitious even by their standards.

They've declared war on half the population of the United States. The female half.

It started when Catholic hospitals and other institutions complained that President Obama's healthcare reform law requires them to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives to their employees. That, they claimed, interfered with their freedom of religion.

The argument makes no sense because (a) many employees of Catholic institutions are not Catholics, and denying them birth control coverage would interfere with their freedom of religion, and (b) even though their insurance covers it, employees who are opposed to birth control aren't obliged to use it.

But this is presidential primary season, so common sense was tossed out the window as all the major GOP presidential contenders scrambled to align themselves with the every-sperm-and-egg-is-sacred crowd.

Republicans in Congress pushed a bill by Sen. Roy Blunt to eliminate the birth control provision; fortunately the slim Democratic majority blocked it. Newt Gingrich, a Catholic - at least as long as his current marriage lasts - called the birth control provision "the most outrageous assault on religious freedom in American history." Mitt Romney, a Mormon, denounced Obama's "assault on religious liberty." Rick Santorum, also a Catholic, said that birth control is "harmful" to women and society. Foster Freiss, a billionaire Santorum backer, joked on TV that women should practice birth control by clamping an aspirin tablet between their knees.

But Rush Limbaugh, the sewer-mouthed radio icon of the right, topped them all for vulgarity. On a recent show he called Sandra Fluke, a young Georgetown law student who testified against the Blunt amendment, a "slut" and a "prostitute," suggested she should post sex videos of herself on the Web, and said she must have an awful lot of sex if she needs all those birth control pills. (Apparently Limbaugh's fact-checkers - if he has any - failed to inform him that the number of birth control pills a woman needs to take doesn't depend on how often she has sex.)

Rush appears to have gotten himself waist-deep (well, he would be waist-deep if he had a waist) in a big steaming pile of doo-doo this time. As of this writing at least 32 of his sponsors have pulled their ads, and several stations have dropped his show. That's a healthy trend, and we hope it accelerates.

But, tellingly, not one of the major Republican presidential candidates has repudiated Limbaugh or his loathsome comments. Obviously their fear of Limbaugh and the knuckle-dragger "base" that he controls is greater than their sense of decency, if any. If there's one positive aspect to this nauseating display of gutless pandering, it's that it shows the Republican presidential field for what it is: a collection of would-be theocrats who would love nothing better than to roll Americans' reproductive rights back to the 1950s - or maybe the 1850s. Here's hoping voters will remember that in November.

Meanwhile, we're giving the whole sickening crew THE BOOT.

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