When President Obama ruled that religious institutions were required (under the new health care law) to cover contraception in their insurance coverage, it set off an overwhelming amount of outrage on the right.
What I find hard to explain, though, is the sudden and intense vitriol over one particular thing--birth control. Obama's ruling, after all, is just one more consequence of Obamacare, a law that 72% of Americans think is unconstitutional. The Republicans could have responded to the birth control mandate by escalating their attacks on Obamacare generally, as an infringement of liberty--and probably would have received a lot of support. Instead, for the next few weeks Rick Santorum (and to a lesser degree, Newt Gingrich) made birth control the major talking point of his campaign and the GOP debates. There was little or no mention of Obamacare or its infringement on individual liberty for everyone, just a lot of talk about religious liberty for the small minority of Catholics who take the birth control prohibition seriously. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh called student Sandra Fluke a "slut" for advocating for birth control--and GOP frontrunners Santorum and Mitt Romney were unwilling to strongly criticize him. (On the flip side, nobody on the left seems to care about Bill Maher's history of equally appalling sexist rhetoric toward Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin).
This narrow focus on birth control is at best idiotic, and at worst chauvinistic. Surely Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney know that birth control is a hot-button issue for many women, and that the vast majority of Catholic women in America have used it. So why, then, do Santorum and Gingrich offer relatively tepid criticism of Obamacare prior to February, then bust into full-blown outrage over birth control? Why does Romney--who seems to have less fight than a sack of pillows--do nothing to counter them from the center? If the issue is "non-procreative sex," then why do they not seem to care that most insurance plans are already required to cover Viagra--which is probably most often prescribed for older men who have no intention or ability to procreate with their partner? Either they don't realize that they're alienating large swaths of moderate women and independents of both genders, or they actually do believe that women need to be kept under control.