“And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”- Richard Mourdock, U.S. Senate candidate from Indiana
For Jewish voters still thinking about their vote for President of the United States, these comments should sound a loud warning bell: Not because we disagree with Richard Mourdock’s views, or his right to express them—but because he wants to write his own theology into law, imposing his own opinion of God’s will over those who believe differently.
Disturbingly, Richard Murdock has company at the top of the Republican Party. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan explained that he also wants to outlaw women’s ability to make their own decisions - even in such tragic cases as rape or incest. Ryan said, “I’m very proud of my pro-life record. I’ve always adopted the idea that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” And presidential nominee Mitt Romney, while announcing that he disagrees with Richard Murdock, has also said that he would be “delighted” to sign legislation that would ban all abortions and strip women of their right to control their bodies.
And yet Republican partisans, especially those who tell us that they disagree with these positions, claim that attention to women’s health is a diversion—not a real issue. They liken women’s health to a “side show”—as if it were a carnival attraction.
Women’s health and well being is not a “special interest” or a “side issue” or even a “social issue!” The trauma of rape is not easily overlooked by the women who are victims. Serious people cannot consider rape as just one “method of conception!”
The ability of women and their families to be able to choose their own personal options is an essential part of women’s ability to live fully human lives. That means protecting our right to make our health care decisions, according to our own faith,—and yes, our own opinions about what is God’s will!
Richard Mourdock didn’t just reveal his own confusion between his personal beliefs and the role of lawmakers in a democracy—he also reminded us of the importance of the 2012 election.
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) wrote that the “the next president likely will nominate one or more new Supreme Court justices… The next Senate will be tasked with confirming or rejecting the President’s Supreme Court nominees….” The decisions that we make this year will determine our laws and how those laws are interpreted in the courts for years to come, impacting our children and our grandchildren in their own life choices.
For American Jews proud of our nation’s history of religious liberty, this approach to lawmaking is especially dangerous.
We have learned through experience to be wary of those who seek to legislate their own interpretations of religious authority.
Will we now allow one particular interpretation of “God’s will” to be written into law? Is this the legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren?
Not if I can help it.
Ann Lewis was Communications Director for President Bill Clinton and a Senior Advisor to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. She is a member of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s Chairman’s Council.
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