Todd Akin may be the only Republican in this election cycle stupid enough to say what he actually thinks. But if you thought he was the only one with an extreme take on women’s rights, well, sorry to disappoint. He’s not the only one – far from it.
- This year’s Republican party platform, which “was written at the direction of Romney’s campaign,” includes what an unnamed RNC official calls “100% prolife” language. That language endorses a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion throughout the country, with no exception for rape, incest, or even as far as I can tell the life of the mother.
- Paul Ryan, along with Todd Akin and many other Republicans, last year co-sponsored legislation that “would have narrowed the already-narrow exceptions to the laws banning federal funding for abortion from all cases of rape to cases of ‘forcible rape.’” You know, “legitimate rape.” The kind where the woman’s body pumps out magical anti-pregnancy stuff. Anyway, after a huge outcry, the GOP backed down and removed the language. But, obviously, the issue remains alive.
- Yesterday, Rep. Steve King of Iowa told an interviewer that “he’s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. ’Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way,’ King told KMEG-TV Monday, ‘and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter.’” King’s office is now desperately trying to backpedal:
“What he was saying was, he personally does not know a girl who was raped,” Brittany Lesser, a spokesperson for King said. “He never says, ‘I’ve never heard of that.’ There’s a fine line between ‘I’ve never heard of that’ and ‘I don’t know personally anybody who’s been raped. There’s a difference. There is a difference.” …
Lesser said “of course” King is aware that girls have been impregnated by statutory rape or incest, and said King supports people who have not been forcibly raped receiving federal abortion coverage under a rape exemption.
“That’s a given for anybody who understands pro-life legislation,” Lesser said.
Except that it isn’t a given – just read this year’s Republican platform. See the first point above.
- David Frum, one of the few rational conservatives left in the country, points out the fact that Akin’s view on the question of abortion is actually quite widespread, and that it has a certain logical consistency that other “pro-life” viewpoints lack.
Akin’s view of abortion—no exception for rape, incest, and life of the mother—is not his belief alone. It is also the view of Rick Santorum, the second-place finisher in the 2012 Republican nomination contest. On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, it became the position of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. It is the stance of Ken Connor, former president of the Family Research Council. Plainly, it is the position of a significant faction within the pro-life movement.
And why not? If you believe that a pregnancy becomes a full human person at the very instant of conception, how can any of these exceptions make sense? Follow the hard logic of a strict pro-life position, and Akin’s view is where you end up. If I discover that my next-door neighbor was born of incest, I cannot wander over and shoot him dead. We don’t apply capital punishment even to the rapist; why should his innocent child pay for his crimes with its life? As for life of the mother, Akin explained his view on that issue well: he urged doctors to “optimize” life, ie, sometimes to choose the mother, but sometimes to choose the child when the child’s life seems more optimal.
These views may be shocking, but they are not stupid. With implacable logic, they derive from first principles. If anything, the logic of these views is tighter than the logic that leads the pro-life majority to favor the rape, incest, and life of the mother exceptions.
These views persist because they are, indeed, the logical conclusion of the view that a fully-realized human life exists at the moment of conception. If you believe that, how can you accept a rape exception, or any other? Why would you not, instead, end up at the place where the Republican platform appears to be?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Unfortunately, there is a substantial segment of the national Republican party – a clear majority in the House and probably the Senate too – that shares views like these. I honestly don’t believe that Scott Brown is one of them, and kudos to him for that. But he backed the Blunt Amendment, which was a dangerous step down that path. Further, and perhaps even worse, his support for Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership – including the presidential ticket – makes him complicit in what they are trying to do. That’s one of the reasons our Senate race matters as much as it does. Elizabeth Warren has a good op-ed in the Berkshire Eagle along similar lines that you should read.