Contraception question booed at Republican debate

February 23, 2012

A question about contraception caused a flareup in the culture wars during the last Republican presidential debate before next week’s Arizona and Michigan primaries and “Super Tuesday.”

The question drew boos from the audience and impassioned statements from the four candidates on the stage in Mesa, Arizona, last night.

“Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why?” was the question posed via

It sparked a lengthy discourse by the candidates on religious freedom, contraception, and family structure. None of the White House hopefuls directly responded to the question.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has taken on the media in previous debates, said it was legitimate to question “the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes,” before questioning CNN moderator John King and zeroing in on Democrat Barack Obama.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney provided backup, saying Obama had launched “the worst attack on religious conscience in the history of the United States.”

In post-debate commentary, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen said: “There are a lot of women out there on Twitter who believe that these candidates really live in the past,” and “it will be interesting to see how that plays out.”

Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women candidates, tweeted: “Most Insulting Rhetoric: @MittRomney for ‘This argument isn’t about contraceptives’ & dismissing the discussion of women’s health #cnndebate.”

Santorum, who has been at the center of the debate over hot-button social issues, does have some women in his corner. The anti-abortion women’s activist group Susan B. Anthony List opened a bus tour and ad campaign in Michigan encouraging people to vote for the former Pennsylvania senator on Tuesday. The ad says Santorum has “stood up time and again for the rights of women and unborn children.”

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Joshua Lott (Candidates at Arizona debate)

Correction: An earlier version of this blog post stated that the debate question referred to abortion. The question was about contraception, not abortion.


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CNN wanted to change the debate to something that was a back burner issue to most people. They want the GOP to waste their time on this stuff so that they will be seen as out of touch with what most Americans are worried about. The people saw the bias by CNN and that’s why they booed.

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive

Hypothesis: **Abolish abortion of inhabitants of the womb nationally or suffer national bankruptcy.** Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Posted by kbMerriken | Report as abusive

Zotdoc has things completed backwards. It has been the Republican candidates who have made abortion, birth control, and contraception an issue. Most AMericans want to discuss taxes, education, healthcare, and the economy. Instead Santorum goes on about gays destroying families and other Catholic far right dogmas that have no place in US politics.

The notion that this country has lost its moral fiber due to “liberal agenda” doesn’t hold up to reality. IN my 8th grade class in Atlanta’s Buckhead area public school at least three girls had to quit in order to have their baby. One girl had gone to Catholic grade school the 7 previous years!! And there were at least 5 other girls who stayed in school after a convenient operation. That was over 30 years ago when Bible thumping southern Baptists ruled Georgia as they do today.

The whole mantra on “family values” pushed by the Republican right is merely a smoke screen to keep the electorate from focusing on the important issues. Let’s hope that Americans are finally waking up to the reality of millionaires telling them how to live their personal lives.

Posted by Acetracy | Report as abusive

Somethings most people can agree on; we need fewer unwanted pregnancies and less of the poverty that they create. You cannot legislate moral character, so why pretend that your personal religious views are significant in any way to the discussion!

Posted by nopleabargains | Report as abusive

3 girls quit (temporarily I hope) to give birth.
5 girls terminated their babies (“convenient operation” acetracy called it). So today we have 3 in the workforce instead of 8. Wiping out our future, are we?

Posted by RockSavage | Report as abusive

Remember, audience members at an earlier Republican debate also cheered the idea of letting the uninsured (healthcare) die. The folks showing up at these Rebublican debates aret the rightest of the right and are a truly scary bunch of people. When they speak of restoring America, they are really talking about restoring it to it’s puritanical roots of the 1600’s.

Posted by mcoleman | Report as abusive

I suppose the ‘religious conscious’ of the Republicans doesn’t extend to lying about weapons of mass destruction, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives (yes, I count the Muslim lives too, not just the Christian ones) that were the result of those lies.

And here they are complaining about the birth of children to unwed mothers and at the same time denying them birth control and abortion. It’s hard to get your story straight when you’re trying to hide the fact that what you’re really about is the great white, and let’s add evangelical, male being in control of the world.

Posted by lhathaway | Report as abusive

The GOP needs to dump the TEA and the Religious Groups and return to their core platform of a small strong central government. Reagan could not get the GOP nomination today.

Posted by NewsDebbie | Report as abusive

Zotdoc, the GOP is already pretty content to waste its time on non-issues like this.

Posted by RexMax46 | Report as abusive

“Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has taken on the media in previous debates, said it was legitimate to question “the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes,””

So then I guess Gingrich shouldn’t have any problems granting Muslims an exemption from the personal mandate section of PPACA, right?

Posted by 4ngry4merican | Report as abusive

You know what, the Republicans do not get a pass on booing out this issue. It is an issue when a religious business which employs most of its employees from a different religion is attempting to exempt itself but not every other business from one piece of the mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act. Especially when the religious institution is a hospital which is a major beneficiary of the money that each individual is now required to pay for health insurance.

Posted by takingmidground | Report as abusive

Acetracy – your example simply proves the point – even to the detriment of young Catholic girls. the family needs to be protected – the family is the basic unit of our culture which instills values to our children – hmmmm, what happened approx 30 years ago? right! Roe vs. Wade, who’s primary defendant has since regretted having been manipulated like a pawn into allowing abortion in this country. Traditional family values are important. What kind of value will a husband and husband transfer to their non-blood related child who has to grow up like a social chemistry experiment in this country? May God have mercy on this country.

Posted by fredgarvin | Report as abusive