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Seamus? Or Shame on Us?

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You know that the political season is heating up when the topic turns to dogs or, more specifically, Romney's alleged mistreatment of the family dog. As a dog lover, I cringe at the thought that on long trips Romney used to tie his dog's house to the top of his car... with Seamus, the dog, in it. Romney, of course, says that Seamus loved it. Maybe. Maybe not. That's one dog fight that I am not getting into. If Santorum or his campaign staffers believe that the dog story reveals something sinister or unfeeling about Romney, that's their call.

I'm more interested in what the dog story may tell us about social conservatives and the state of the American electorate. Let me stress again that I am avid dog lover. But Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are not running for dog catcher. The dogs of the world will little note nor long remember who wins the presidency of the United States, let alone the GOP nomination. Really, their attention spans are not that good.

I am more interested to know what this election means for... people. More specifically, I am interested in what impact this election will have on women and their reproductive health. I fully recognize and respect that social conservatives, including the GOP presidential aspirants, are motivated by strong moral or religious convictions. While I may not agree with some or all of their positions on matters relating to reproductive rights, I am not insensitive to their pro-life beliefs or their desire to live their lives in accordance with those convictions.

But when social conservatives advocate for personhoodamendments that would bar others from using certain forms of modern contraception or when they propose that coverage of reproductive health care should be treated differently than other forms of health care, their moral judgments impact the lives of others who may not share their moral or religious convictions.

Many low-income women go to government-supported family clinics for routine medical treatments, including screenings for breast and cervical cancer, and when a clinic is forced to close, they may have to travel a lot farther and pay a lot more to obtain the services they need, including contraception. With crowded work schedules and the rising price of gas and transportation, many will defer finding those services elsewhere. In the end, we may see an increase in unintended pregnancies, abortions, and undetected cancers. That is what can happen when moral judgments are applied with a broad brush.

What I don't see among many social conservatives is any empathy or concern for the well-being of women who would be denied access to contraceptive and other health services. In their rush to moral judgment, it's almost as if women don't matter. I'm sure that's too harsh. But if so, why is Seamus getting more sympathy from social conservatives than Sandra Fluke or the millions of women who lives will be changed -- and possibly endangered -- if access to contraception and family planning clinics is curbed.

I am not asking social conservatives to change their political position on matters of reproductive health and reproductive rights. I don't expect them to abandon their deeply-held convictions. But in seeking to impose their moral judgments on the rest of us, how about a little more concern for the welfare of women? If the well-being of Seamus gets more attention in this primary season than the welfare of women... shame on us.