Men Bearing Stone Tablets
But, suddenly, Republicans, usually zealous to state their opposition to government regulation, have taken a radical turn into trying to control women in very personal areas where politicians have absolutely no business.
In election years, Republicans frequently try to smear Democrats over conservative religious issues. But it's a real mistake to rely on the elderly, white, male hierarchy of the Catholic Church as your experts on a subject with which they have little familiarity: the reproductive systems of women.
As Republicans continue moving even further to the extreme right, their presidential candidates and regional stars such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have become openly anti-woman. Last year Walker got a jump on demonizing women's health organizations by canceling a state contract with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin providing cancer screenings and other services for low-income women in Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Outagamie and Sheboygan counties.
Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore called out Walker for canceling the contract in a couple of tweets from her Washington office. Incredibly, even though Walker certainly had canceled the contract, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's not-very-credible PolitiFact column called Moore a liar for pointing it out.
Walker said he canceled the contract because Planned Parenthood was "controversial." That's not really true. Planned Parenthood is only controversial among extreme conservatives such as Walker who oppose some of its other services, including abortion and contraception.
The rights of women to those services are the law of the land. You can't unfairly condemn an organization for providing services to which women are legally entitled and then deny them state contracts for being "controversial."
That certainly is no excuse for Walker opposing Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings and other preventive health services that save women's lives.
Bizarre Protective Bubble
When Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer charity, recently cut off funding for Planned Parenthood to do the same sort of breast cancer screenings, it created a national firestorm of negative reaction that forced the charity to reverse its decision within days.
But Republicans are in a bizarre protective bubble where they only talk with people as extreme as they are. That's why they're actually escalating their attack on women's health, instead of pulling back.
The aging male bishops of the Catholic Church turned apoplectic when President Barack Obama insisted on including contraception as a basic health service provided free under federal health care reform in all insurance plans, even those available to employees of Catholic schools and hospitals.
The bishops called it an attack on religious freedom and Republicans eagerly grabbed what they saw as another hot anti-Obama issue.
Sadly, Republicans and bishops don't really understand religious freedom in America. The perfect demonstration of our religious freedom is the fact that, according to actual research, an overwhelming majority of American Catholic women use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.
Women have the religious freedom to ignore what that old guy up front wearing those fancy clothes is saying when he doesn't know what he's talking about. And pity the party that tries to pass laws to take that freedom away from them.
There is another factor pushing Republicans even further into anti-woman, religious extremism. Its name is Rick Santorum.
Since a whole lot of Republicans really don't like Mitt Romney, the man most likely to win their party's presidential nomination, they've run through a long string of increasingly pathetic alternatives. Those Not-Romneys have crashed and burned, one after another. Santorum is the last Not-Romney standing.
And Santorum is a religious extremist. He's attacked the faith of Obama, a strong Christian, saying publicly it's impossible for liberals to be Christians. Under Santorum's definition, Jesus Christ, who advocated feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, would not qualify.
It really gets frightening when Santorum suggests imposing his extreme views on others.
Santorum lives his right-wing Catholic beliefs in ways few others choose. Because he opposes contraception, his wife, Karen, has given birth to eight children. One lived only two hours. Their 3-year-old has a serious genetic disorder and already has lived longer than expected.
Even for those in comfortable financial circumstances, such families are rare these days not because there aren't rich rewards, but because there's also an emotional toll. Every woman reading this is thinking, "Especially for the mother."
Then you hear Santorum opposing prenatal testing because it might detect birth defects and lead parents to think about abortion and talking about how God's Law must take precedence over the Supreme Court.
When women today hear men, even exalted bishops and presidential candidates, promoting themselves as bearers of stone tablets engraved with God's Law, many realize they could end up under a rock and run the other way.