A woman’s life is a human life: a theological error in the GOP platform?

AFP/GETTY IMAGES Delegates show their support for Mitt Romney during roll call for nomination of president of the United States … Continued


Delegates show their support for Mitt Romney during roll call for nomination of president of the United States at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa on Aug. 28, 2012 during the Republican National Convention.

“God created human beings in God’s image…male and female God created them.” (Genesis: 1:27) According to the Bible, women are created fully equal in the divine image and thus fully, and equally, human.

You’d never know that from reading the Republican platform, especially in regard to the anti-abortion language that asserts the “sanctity and dignity of human life.” That section affirms that the “unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed” and calls for a “human life amendment to the Constitution.”

Astonishingly, there is no mention of an exception on abortion in the cases of rape or incest; no mention even of such an exception to save the life of the mother. No qualification at all when it comes to even the life of a woman being protected.

Aren’t women’s lives included in the category of “the sanctity and dignity of human life?”

The document also calls for “legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” The Fourteenth Amendment contains the “equal protection clause,” except that when it comes to women’s lives, apparently, women are not equally protected. They are not even mentioned. The sole emphasis in the document as published is on what is called “the unborn.” That is, fetuses.

Why doesn’t the GOP consider women as equal, or even worth mentioning, when it comes to preserving their lives? Aren’t women’s lives “human lives”? The omission of women’s humanity and its protection from the GOP platform is a serious theological error.

Some in the party may indeed consider women human, but they are clearly not the people crafting policy.

Nothing illustrates this reality as well as last week’s drama around “legitimate rape.” Rep. Todd Akin, the conservative Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, precipitated a firestorm of protest when he said to an interviewer, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

President Obama countered “rape is rape” and the “war on women” reignited fast and furiously.

Both Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan called on Akin to quit the Senate race. Akin refused. Who is leading whom?

As I read Republicans’ platform, the extremists appear to be the ones crafting policy for the party. On Sunday, Romney policy advisor Avik Roy tried to reassure MSNBC host Chris Hayes, and more likely, the remaining GOP moderates, that the party’s platform planks such as the “human life amendment” to the Constitution “should not be considered a reflection of Romney’s personal views.”

Romney, of course, is the national “weathervane” of reproductive politics. His most famous “flip-flop” is his going from being “pro-choice” to “pro-life.” Is Roy trying to reassure moderates that Romney will flip-flop back the other way after the election? Really? What happens then to the “human life amendment to the Constitution”?

Going forward, Republicans might want to keep in mind a few fundamental points about women’s rights that come from the basic theological presumption of their full humanity.

Women frequently die or are maimed from illegal abortions. The coat hanger image that appeared in coverage of Akin’s comments brought back the horrors of illegal abortions. Keep this in mind: many women died or were maimed when abortion was illegal in the U.S. Protecting women’s lives is part of respecting their full humanity.

Women’s humanity includes their bodily integrity. Rape is an assault on women’s bodies and is a crime, regardless of the conditions under which it was committed. GOP candidates like Akin are assaulting women’s dignity by even bringing up such misleading and shaming terms as “legitimate” or “forcible” rape. Stop using those terms and concepts.

As human beings created in the image of God, women are ethical agents. Women can make informed choices about whether to carry a pregnancy to term or not. A good moral precedent for “Ethics and Experience: Moral Theory from Just War to Abortion.” Women should be considered “competent moral authorities” per the Just War paradigm and thus capable of making difficult ethical choices. Trust women to know what’s best for them and their families. That’s why it’s called “choice.”

There really is a war on women, and the front lines are women’s bodies, minds and spirits. My right to use contraception is part of my religious freedom, and any attempt to restrict or eliminate my health care coverage for contraception, or that of other women, places an unwarranted limit on all women’s religious freedom and freedom of conscience. This is in direct contrast to the GOP platform’s misleading, in fact, inaccurate language on “forcible secularization” by the Obama administration in regard to reproductive issues.

There is a war on women’s humanity being conducted by extremists in the Republican Party. I urge responsible members of the GOP leadership to take back their own party for the sake of all women and the men who care about them.

Don’t adopt a GOP platform like this one, and then hint to us that you really don’t mean to take these extreme positions. Why should any woman, indeed, any adult, trust you if you don’t have the courage to publicly and consistently stand up for women’s full humanity?

Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

  • Jehosephat

    1 Timothy 2

    8: I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9: also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire 10: but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. 11: Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. 12: I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. 13: For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14: and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15: Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.


    “Aren’t women’s lives included in the category of “the sanctity and dignity of human life?”

    No. That’s not what christians believe, and this is a christian nation.

    Enjoy these last free words, property.

  • tony55398

    Timothy didn’t hold women in very high regard and neither did the many of the early Christian communities, all the blame was on Eve, deceived though Satan, in the form of a serpent,and yet Adam also freely disobeyed God although through Eve, he was guilty nontheless, and maybe more so.It’s one thing to be deceived through Satan a very powerful fallen Angel and another to fall victim to a women who is very much less powerful and who truly believed what she had heard from the great deceiver. Adam truly disobeyed at least equally and maybe more so.

  • haveaheart


    Pathology such as yours is truly awful to behold. You probably should get back to the hospital now, before you show up on too many radar screens.

  • realgrrl1

    ScottinVA – are you still impotent?

  • kloo2006

    Thankfully, our Constitution and Bill of Rights don’t rely on a book of fables and inconsistencies. But the days of biblical Sharia seem to be an unfortunate symptom of supersticious thought. Giving “rights” and personhood to a zygote in the 21st century as the rights and personhood of real women are diminished based on a dubious theological tenets is madness.

  • v4real12

    Thankfully we are not living in a theocracy.

  • itsthedax

    So, the conservative view is that the true role of government is to govern our bedroom behavior, and force women to have children against their will.

    After all, corporations are people, but women aren’t! Right, good ol’ boys?


    Life does not begin at conception, no matter what you medievalists want to push as true.

    And it’s the woman’s decision, no one else’s.

  • Catken1

    “Does the CONVENIENCE of a woman trump the LIFE of her child?”

    Does your CONVENIENCE in not wanting to give blood trump the LIFE of the poor, innocent, helpless little baby or child you could save? Yes, because it’s YOUR BLOOD. Yes, even if it’s YOUR helpless little baby or child, whom you created by being selfish and irresponsible (i.e. not a lifelong celibate). Yes, even if you caused their injury through selfish and irresponsible behavior, say through careless driving (you could have just given up your selfish and self-indulgent desire to drive, after all).

    And blood donation costs a heck of a lot less than pregnancy. I know, I’ve done both.

    But of course, any effort, work, energy and resources that a woman puts into pregnancy are mere trivial “inconvenience”, because ScottinVA from his superior can’t-get-pregnant heights has deemed them so. The twelve-year-old child whose body is permanently maimed after being forced to carry her stepfather’s child, the woman who loses her job and her house and her healthcare and can’t support her existing children due to an unwanted pregnancy, the woman whose body never functions quite normally again after one pregnancy too many – they’ll be happy to know that they suffered mere trivial “inconvenience.”

  • desertlady1

    It’s more than a “theological error! It’s an error and an abomination.

    Ironic that the platform wants to use the 14th amendment, part of which states:
    No person was allowed to be deprived of life, liberty,or property without “due process of law.: to create an entire new class of slaves. If you have a uterus, you are screwed. I am sick and tired of being considered too stupid to control my own body!

  • cricket44

    As long as they embrace the “women as chattel” mentality, every time the GOP use the words “freedom” and “liberty,” they are lying.

  • Secular1

    ” Satan a very powerful fallen Angel and another to fall victim.” Can some one tell me when did the sky daddy create the angel called satan. When did this angel become a fallen angel. We all know the sky daddy started on sunday with his creation. So when did he create satan and on which day did satan become fallen. When did satan convince eve to drag the spineless buffoon adam to sin. What is it that satan do to be deemed as a fallen angel. Where in Genesis all this was described. In teh first place why was the fruit on the tree forbidden? Was there a reason for that or just because sky daddy made it up arbitrarily. How did satan come to know that it was forbidden?

  • Mrs-Weasley

    Basically you are saying women should shut up, do as they are told, and not think for themselves.

    Blech – been there , done that, thinking for myself, and making my own choices based on what is best for me saved my life.

    This view of women is hateful, hurtful, and ignores the humanity in women. Women have intelligence, abilities, talents, and are able to make decisions for themselves – no one has the right to demand that women give up the right to self-determinism.

    An abortion is not for convenience – nor is it murder – it is a legally sanctioned medical procedure that any woman, who needs one, should be able to access without interference from anyone – what you choose to believe if your choice but you do not have the right to demand that everyone else adopt your archaic notions of womanhood/marriage/family.

    Your assertion that YOU KNOW and have THE ONE TRUE PATH does not make that true – there are many paths, many religions= many claiming to be THE ONE TRUE PATH – does not make them any more right than you are.

    You may choose to believe whatever you want you may not demand that your belief system be the only one that is allowed and followed. A theocracy is not a good system and I would hope that the good people of the USA would understand that and move away from this insane place you have found yourselves.

  • quiensabe

    Susan, it would be easier for “responsible members of the GOP leadership to take back their own party for the sake of all women and the men who care about them” to just join the Democrat Party wouldn’t it?

  • Catken1

    Because nine months of subhuman status, with possible lifelong consequences, is a fully appropriate consequence for being raped, or for not being a virgin (even if you only ever have sex responsibly, within marriage).
    Unless, of course, you’re male. Drastic consequences for engaging in perfectly normal human behavior are only appropriate if they can’t possibly be inflicted on ScottinVA. If he can look down his smug, safe nose on others and preach an “accountability” that he will never, ever be subjected to himself, then it’s fine – but treating HIM as property would be WRONG.

  • Catken1

    “Does the CONVENIENCE of a woman trump the LIFE of her child? ”

    Yes. As it does in any other case when one human’s life depends on the use of another’s blood, bone marrow, organs, or other body parts. My right to control my own body and its use trumps someone else’s right to support themselves with it.

    And pregnancy still is more than a trivial “inconvenience.” Even if it can’t happen to anyone you deem important or human.

    “And, yes, I am responsible to provide blood to the victims of my reckless actions (though I need not provide my own)”

    Not legally you aren’t. And what do you mean, I need not provide my own? Are you now arguing that you have a right to take blood from other people without their consent, to give to someone you’ve hurt?

  • desertlady1

    ScottinVA, you have no empathy and my s-e-x life is NONE of YOUR Business. I am pro-choice; I have no right to tell anyone else what to do with their body. And the platform has NO exceptions for life of the mother (i.e. My sister would have been allowed to die of an ectopic pregnancy), rape or incest.

    Are you agreeing that rape is legal? And how is a forced pregnancy not a form of slavery?

  • cricket44

    Meds, Scott. It realy is time for you to take them.

  • cricket44

    Nice to see an acknowledgement that it isn’t the GOP that supports women. Maybe you are correct. They should leave the fanatics and misogynists to themselves.

  • cricket44

    Trust you to feel compelled to repeat a personal attack, scotty boy. So pious of you…really.

  • Secular1

    In this abortion debate, I can both intellectually and emotionally see the validity on both sides. I also believe in Euthanasia, too. There are really two competing interests that have to be balanced off. Clearly I do not agree with the pre-1973 situation. However, i can also see the pro-life position, left to natural processes a fetus will more likely develop into a full human being. In a whole lot of other cases many a time medical decisions are made where others indeed make decisions to terminate someone else’s life.

    The decision to terminate pregnancy are not always facile, as convenience, etc. More often than not the decision is financial, maturity of the pregnant child – if you will, diagnosis of birth defects and a host of others. The pro-life movement has plenty of secular reasoning to buttress its case, too. The pro-choice side by demanding the rape and incest exception is conceding defeat, before the argument begins. Pro-life wing is horrified at the prospect of abortion on demand and as late as third trimester.

    This debate is however, cannot be resolved by appealing to the worthless scriptures. Basing public policy on some silly anecdotes in ignorant literature in 21st century is absurd. If ones behavior is dictated by those tomes, I have no issue with that. How an individual comes to a world view is just her own business. That said, religion has no place in public policy at all. If a public policy coincides with a religious dogma so be it. It should be just an happenstance. No one has a right to expect that rest of the society must adhere to his religious dicta, via a public policy.

    We all know what the results are going to be if there is an outright banning of abortion. Strict enforcement of it will only swell the prison populations. just like war on drugs has done and will soon be a dismal failure as was with prohibition. The pro-lifers need to realize that it wasn’t as though there were no abortions before 1973. You will not get y

  • Secular1

    SinVA, aren’t you free with facts here. Whom are you referring to when you say “convicted sexual harasser”, or for that matter even accused rapist. Clinton was never accused of raping anyone. Paula Jones only accused him of making sexual advances once, not even repeatedly. In case of Monika Lewinsky there was never any accusation that she was harassed. In fact she herself acknowledged that she initiated it and that it was consensual.

  • cricket44

    Actually, none of those need to be taken into account. Either a person has physical autonomy or they do not. She’s either a woman or a thing.

    Comprehensive sex ed, access to contraception, raising our sons to know they aren’t “entitled” to sexual activity and that if they put their sperm in someone else’s body, they lose control of it, all these things can help *lessen* the need for abortion.

  • cricket44

    The unborn isn’t a child so your argument is moot. I know, you’ll repeat it, but it’s moot.

  • ccnl1

    The morning-after-pill, rape kits or RU 486 basically vitiates rape issues.

  • ccnl1

    And again, what is in play here are the “brutal effects of stupidity”!!!

  • Larnan5

    OK. Let’s have Gingrich, Ryan and Akin in the room when a women in need of an emergency abortion to save her life dies. Reality might hit them in the face. Is that not murder?

  • Secular1

    SinVA, i am glad you agree with me but frankly I see you disagree with me more than you actually agree. In my world view there is compelling state or societal interest in Suicide, hence my strong support for euthanasia. Only the family and near & dear of teh person have any say in such an act. That said with euthanasia it is something for old folks. At that juncture of ones life people are somewhat vulnerable and that’s where state has a compelling interest to safe guard the right of the vulnerable, yet letting the individual have his/her choice in the matter. can satte always protect the vulnerable form their own family every time without restricting teh competent still exercise their right? Certainly not.. But blanket prohibition does not bring us to an optimal solution either, in fact it is very far from it. Laws with reasonable restrictions and oversight will give us a sub-optimal solution, perhaps never reach the optimal, even asymptotically. That said, euthanasia discussion is for another day.

    As I said above of euthanasia, abortion is also a ticklish issue without a black & white solution. There will not be a optimal solution if the pro-lifers want a blanket prohibition and same is true of blanket lack of any law regulating the same is not good to either. As I listed above 10 factors should be taken into account, perhaps few more to regulate it, along with providing enough channels for contraception and sex education. I am not at all opposed to chemical neutering of the both men and women who seem to resort abortions habitually. In order to do that I am also open to state intrusion in determining the paternity of each and every aborted fetus. This is necessary to ensure that serial male impregnators do not go scott free. I reiterate that I am pro-choice person.

  • SimonTemplar

    It does mention women by default, or at least females, because all women start out as unborn children.

    If a large number of men, women and children were in a crowded movie theater when a fire suddenly ignited, would we expect women to be evacuated before children? I know the old saying goes, “Women and children first.” But in the hierarchy of that statement, would we expect the women to be rescued before the children? I’m just thinking out loud here.

    If the GOPs platform is considered a “war on women,” then what are we to make of the Democrat Party and President Obama’s pro-choice position? Is it a “war on children?”

    “Women frequently die or are maimed from illegal abortions. The coat hanger image…” (Thistlethwaite)

    How many children have died from legal abortions (since Roe Vs. Wade)? I believe the figure is above 50 million.

    As human beings created in the image of God, women are ethical agents. (Thistlethwaite) Wow, she said “CREATED” and “in the image of GOD!”

    I don’t know by what theological gymnastics Thistlethwaite concludes that contraception is a matter of religious freedom. Perhaps in some religion where sexual rites are practiced which require the use of contraception but none come to my mind at present. I always thought that sexual rites had more to do with fertility (which contraceptive devices negate). No, I think that the use of contraceptives is a mark of sexual freedom (the freedom to have the pleasure of sex without the consequences of contraception).

    In the last sentence, Thistlethwaite challenges the GOP to stand up for women’s full humanity. Well, part of what distinguishes a woman from a man is the ability to conceive children. Thus the bar for what constitutes the fullness of a woman’s humanity is set right there. Looks like the GOP platform DOES stand up for the women’s full humanity. Obviously, not all women can conceive and this fact does not render those women any less human. But I am not talking about the exceptions here. I’m talking about t

  • Secular1

    SinVA, of course abortion is not illegal, in name. That said there are a huge host of restrictions and is being whittled away. Ther is nothing imaginary about privacy rights. You will know it when very same imaginary rights of yours get violated. At that time you will not be as stoic and facile as to dismiss it as imaginary.

    I get the feeling that you are still unwilling to acknowledge that there are at least two competing and valid view points. Unless the pro-lifers come to the table with at least an intellectually open mind that the pro-choice folks have a valid view point people will be at loggerheads. Although, a fetus will more likely than not develop into full fledged child/human being, it certainly would not without full consent of the woman. For you or anyone to say that woman is committing a murder, but we will convict the doctor, the nurse, and the midwife is utter nonsense. Just as, you wouldn’t want the state to tell you what you should do with your property, do you not think state has even less ground to stand on, in telling what people need to do with their bodies. I have been here in this country for 36 years, and I have not ever seen the pro-life movement tackle the issue with any kind of conciliatory approach. It has been lets see how we can whittle it down. If eliminating all abortion is the goal, it is a pipe dream. For someone to think pre-Roe V Wade, was the world without abortions, you are throughly mistaken. Abortions were taking place, and perhaps without any estimates and often with deadly consequences.

    What has the pro-life movement done academically, in terms of building a taxonomy of reason for abortions. Based on such research building an infrastructure to eliminate or counter or mitigate those reasons. Nothing, other than demagoguing with their sanctimonious outrage. One of the simple solutions is to promote birth control, but even that is demagogued, because of some stupid reason out of OT, where the sky daddy strikes dow

  • lbartels

    Shouldn’t it be possible to give an unborn baby rights equal to the already-born? If done, the moral question then is who has a greater right when a conflict in rights arise? I am greatly troubled by the left’s total disregard for the notion that an unborn child has no right to live. I am in favor of acknowledging an unborn’s child’s right to live and then set up ethics processes to deal with the inevitable conflicts. If the mother’s life is endangered by continuing the pregnancy, deal with the conflict. Is rape-related pregnancy the conflict? Why not reason and counsel through the conflict instead of insisting that the mother has rights and the baby has no rights? One type of mother vs unborn conflict pits the baby’s life against mother’s psyche. Another challenge is when carrying an unborn baby to term clearly risks the mother’s life and impacts her other children and her husband. When an inconveniently pregnant woman simply prefers not to be pregnant, should our culture say that the unborn has no rights? To those who adamantly claim an unregulated right to disregard any rights of an unborn to live and thrive, I ask, “what does that say about us as a people?” Are we as a people willing to give more rights to those imprisoned for crimes than those as yet unborn? Do we grant more rights to the horrifically handicapped than to the unborn? Do we grant more rights to hostile combatants who were captured in battles against our soldiers than to the unborn? Do we protect animals more assiduously than we do our unborn generations?
    The issue is really not if abortion should be an option. The real question should be about how we reason through when a conflict arises between the mother’s medical, pyschological, and social circumstances and the rights of the unborn.

  • SimonTemplar

    Correction to the last sentence in my second to the last paragraph. That last word should be “conception.”

  • steveajames

    I keep reading in these comments about unborn children and babies. We do not consider unhatched eggs to be chickens or ungrown acorns to be oak trees. So why is it different with people?

  • SimonTemplar

    For one, humans are neither chickens nor are we trees. If you step on a chicken egg or stamp out a sapling, you are not likely killing a future inventor, explorer, discoverer of some medical breakthrough, musician, artist, teacher, etc.

    Whats more, try disturbing a nest filled with spotted owl eggs and see what kind of wrath is unleashed from the many assorted animal rights groups.

  • IntellectOne

    The question remains? Who’s life is more important? The mother’s or the child’s life? Both are equal humans (.theologically). and must be protected at every effort. Should this be a case by case rather than a blanked elective abortion on demand?
    On who’s authority do the women have to do the ultimate abuse to their and the Father’s child? There is no such thing as a ‘Safe Abortion’, the baby dies and sometimes the mother too.
    The Republican Party did the ‘Right’ thing. They want to protect the most vulnerable and that shows who has the better ‘character’ and are better human-beings.
    Also, the Republican Party’s Platform protects the ‘Definition’ of Marriage.
    Marriage is between One man and One woman.
    That is also ‘Theologically’ correct and ‘Morally’ correct.
    The Democrat’s Platform calls for Elective Abortion on Demand and some odd ball definition of marriage. Clearly, absent of any Moral and Theological guidance for the Americans. Also, a complete absents from reality!

  • nkri401


    You have less right to your neighbor’s children than their parents.

    Also, you have less right to the fetus than the woman who is carrying the fetus.

    The above is as it should be if this is to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  • IntellectOne

    The question remains? Is the baby in the mother’s womb any less of a human-being if he/or she was conceived by rape or incest?
    Abortion is not the answer because two Wrongs can never make a Right

  • alert4jsw

    Women are human? I thought that idea was long settled. After all, it seems so obvious. But, then, we are dealing with religion, so concepts such as “rational” and “obvious” have nothing to do with it.

    We should remember that the learned bishops of the Catholic church actuallly debated the issue. At the Council of Macon in the year 585 CE, the assembled bishops actually considered the question as to whether women were human. The decision — by a margin of one vote — declared that they were. Just think how different the world would have become if just one bishop had voted the other way.

    For one thing, it probably would not now be necessary for the church and its fellow travellers to try to correct what it must now see as an error by reducing a woman’s value and rights as a person to the equivalent of a non-cognizant, multi-celled blastocyst.

    But as to today’s Republican party, the question remains: Of a woman, a fetus, and a corporation, which two do Republicans consider “persons?”

  • IntellectOne

    It is not just a religious issue. The bishops never argued whether a “woman was human” they knew that she was. The Blessed Virgin Mary was known very well already and they knew when she went to visit Elisabeth, who was pregnant with John The Baptist, he leaped in his mother’s womb when the Blessed Virgin approached. The bishops knew very well that women were created by God just as they were.
    Of course, in today’s day, men and women do not have to quess if, it is a human-being that is in the woman as a separate