WASHINGTON, February 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - You could call it America’s century-long double-take.

In less than 100 years, the country’s stance on birth control has swung dramatically: it is now a faux pas to seriously question a practice that, once, was outlawed as “obscenity” even to speak of publicly.

And yet, as news of presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s opposition to birth control spreads alongside outrage over Obama’s insurance mandate, the spark of a nearly extinct debate in the media is being steadily fanned.

“I don’t think it works, I think it’s harmful to women, I think it’s harmful to our society, to have a society that says that sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated, particularly among the young, and I think we’ve seen very, very harmful long term consequences to society,” said Santorum in a 2006 interview unearthed this week, where he also emphasized his support for federal family planning funds despite the disagreement.

The remarks sparked a media backlash that began with Washington Post commentator Jennifer Rubin, a prominent Santorum supporter. Rubin lamented the remarks in strong terms and called the generalized condemnation of birth control a serious detriment to his electability.

“For starters, does he realize that married women (men too!) use birth control?” wrote Rubin. “The impression that Santorum finds the prevalent practice of birth control ‘harmful to women’ is, frankly, mind-numbing.”

Other commentators jumped aboard, warning that Santorum’s statements were “not an anomaly” and that his “problems with women” would prove his greatest obstacle thus far to the nomination.

Still others questioned the knee-jerk response.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal noted, “Santorum actually makes an entirely reasonable and fairly sophisticated argument, and he says nothing cringe-worthy.”

The columnist posited that the “overwrought emotionalism” from conservatives towards Santorum’s beliefs betrays the fact that “a high proportion of conservatives have internalized the assumptions of feminism.” “One of those assumptions is that female sexual freedom, an essential component of sexual equality, is an unadulterated good. Santorum’s statements to the contrary challenge this deeply held view,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Santorum has been handed an opportunity to make his case in a context where his beliefs have, paradoxically, placed him squarely in the company of a vastly expanding camp: opponents to the federal birth control mandate.

In a rare show of force and unity, the conservative movement has coalesced behind U.S. bishops to rescue religious freedom against Obama’s mandate forcing Catholic organizations to pay for birth control, including sterilization and abortifacient drugs.

Major Christian leaders such as megachurch pastor Rick Warren have thrown their weight behind the bishops, who have not minced words on their own behalf. Baptist Mike Huckabee and Mormon Glenn Beck alike have summed up the sentiment as: “we are all Catholics now.”

The controversy could be seen as pumping renewed energy into America’s conservative religious identity, and by extension, its most religiously conservative candidate. The latest Pew Research Center poll found Santorum ahead of Romney nationally by two points, 30-28%.

The events are a felicitous twist for the senator who entered the race with a plan to enter territory few politicians are wont to go. Even before the mandate became front-and-center news last month, Santorum had already signaled that he was planning on bringing his views about contraception to the surface.

“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, the whole sexual libertine idea,” he said in an October interview.

As Rubin noted in her recent column, Santorum’s heretofore obscure effort has wound up radically successful. “Santorum’s beliefs about contraception have injected Catholic theology into a presidential campaign season that was supposed to be all about the economy,” she wrote.

Click “like” if you want to end abortion!