Maryann Tobin

Perhaps one of the most interesting twists of the 2012 presidential campaign is the shift in the conversation from the economy to social issues.

With a positively Victorian attitude, GOP candidates, particularly former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, are proposing an end to the use of birth control pills and abortion.

Since birth control can prevent unwanted pregnancies that would lead to abortion, the conclusion one must draw is that conservatives are somehow trying to legislate or completely eliminate sexual relations for any reason other than by a married couple for the sole purpose of producing a child. The concept is not new to the world, but it is a new mix of politics and the constitutional ban on the separation of church and state.

The Roman Catholic church has long been an advocate of sex for the sole purpose of procreation. However, the Catholic Church also says that a wife should never refuse a sexual advance by her husband.

In their teachings, Catholics claims that the prevention of unwanted pregnancies should be achieved through timing intercourse on days of the month when a woman is less fertile, commonly known as the "rhythm method."

In support of the conservative "no birth control, no abortion, no sex" ideal, Santorum said, "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's OK, contraception is OK." Santorum added, "It's not OK. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

Santorum's version of "how things are supposed to be" does not necessarily fit into the social values and practices of 21st-century America.

Sex out of wedlock is an integral part of American society, as is birth control. Millions of people worldwide participate in both. And while Santorum himself may not be guilty of having an extramarital affair, lawmakers are not strangers to deviant or immoral sexual behavior. Santorum's primary foe Newt Gingrich, with his three marriages, is a prime example of conservative hypocrisy. Don't do as I do, just do as I say, is hardly an exemplary form of leadership.

So what do Santorum and other conservatives really want? Do they want the government to step into the bedroom? If so, it goes against everything the "less government, more freedom" platform the current conservative movement stands for. Government regulation of sexual activity, matter how it is achieved, represents less freedom and more government, regulating the intimate behavior of the population at large.

Why the 2012 presidential campaign should focus on personal sexual behavior is a bizarre conundrum amid the vast economic issues that are so profoundly and detrimentally changing millions of lives in America.

Freedom of religion was foremost among the reasons for the birth of America. People sought sovereignty on U.S. shores to escape the restrictions and persecution of the British monarchy rule. Now it appears as though conservatives in 2012 want to take the country back, not a decade or two, but centuries, to the ideology that sparked a revolution.

Birth control and abortion are products of modern day society and cultural changes that have evolved over generations. Whether or not their use is morally correct is not a decision Santorum or any other government official should not be making.

If conservatives want to invent a more moral America, it should not be done through deprivation or legislation, but through a change in attitude from the top. A true leader leads best by example, not by iron fist. Forcing the will of one into the lives of many is not democracy by any standard.

What the candidates have omitted in their moral crusades against abortion and birth control is the powerful influence of the modern social environment. Young people today do not look at the world the same way as those of past generations did. Violence and sexually elicit behavior is everywhere; it's on the Internet, on television, in music and films and in video games.

If any part of the world is going to return to a stricter moral code, it will not be achieved through government intervention into personal freedoms. It will be reached one child at a time by their parents, who teach by example and raise them to understand that what they see around them through various media outlets is not what they should imitate.

The door of personal freedom swings both ways, but there is a common denominator in moral decisions. Behavior, whether it is considered moral or immoral, legal or illegal, is determined by cultural environment and social standards, and it will always be the personal choice of the individual.

Any politician that says he or she can force a moral code on an entire population through government regulation needs to take a look at history. Sexual, religious and moral repression is the stuff of which revolutions are made.

If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.

Video: Woodstock 1969; The beginning of the sexual revolution

Sources and more info: Rick Santorum is coming for your birth control

Calendar-based contraceptive methods

Abortion and the Catholic Church

The marriages of Newt Gingrich