The GOP Platform’s Abortion Plank Could’ve Been Written By Todd Akin
It won’t be official until Monday when it’s voted on at the convention, but the Republican Party appears ready to adopt as part of its platform an abortion plank that would call for a Constitutional Amendment that would outlaw all abortions in all cases:
The Republican Party is once again set to enshrine into its official platform support for “a human life amendment” to the Constitution that would outlaw abortion without making explicit exemptions for rape or incest, according to draft language of the platform obtained exclusively by CNN late Monday.
“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” the draft platform declares. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
The party will reaffirm its opposition to federally-funded embryonic stem cell research and demand that the government “not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.”
Republicans have also inserted a “salute” to states pushing “informed consent” laws – an apparent reference to ultrasound bills that have moved through some state legislatures – “mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation.”
An exemption for rape, though, is not included in the platform set to be adopted by the party Romney will officially lead when he accepts the Republican nomination next week.
And Ryan, his vice presidential pick, has opposed exceptions for rape and voted alongside Akin in the House, though Ryan now says he defers to Romney’s position on the matter.
Debate over the abortion plank flared four years ago when John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee at the time, said he wanted to add language to the platform to recognize exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother
The GOP has included support for the so-called Human Life Amendment in its platform going back decades now and there’s never really been any serious attempt to pass such an amendment in Congress. Furthermore, the actual importance of party platforms is largely overblown by pundits, and political opponents. Most voters apparently don’t pay much attention to them, and neither do the politicians once their elected. Indeed, the odds that any Constitutional Amendment, least of all this one, could make it through the ratification process in this day and age are pretty low. Nonetheless, this comes at a time when the entire abortion issue, and the Democratic meme that the GOP is waging a “war on women” has been revived by the idiotic comments of Congressman Todd Akin regarding rape and abortion. Tied into that there’s the fact that Akin was a co-sponsor, along with Paul Ryan, of legislation that would have limited taxpayer funding of abortions for poor women only to cases of “forcible rape,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. After an uproar that included the somewhat unfair charge that the House GOP was seeking to “redefine rape,” the bill was dropped. However, the sponsorship remains and Ryan’s place on the ticket is an uncomfortable reminder of that bill at a time when Akin himself has become persona non grata in his own party. Akin and Ryan also partnered on something called the Sanctity Of Human Life Act Of 2009, which said the following:
(1) the Congress declares that-
(A) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and
(B) the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and
(2) the Congress affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.
This bill is based on the radical notion pushed by many in the pro-life movement that Congress has the authority to outlaw abortion nationwide via legislation pursuant to the authority granted by Section 5 of the 14th Amendment. The legal merits of such an argument are dubious to say the least, and there’s really not much of a chance something like this would ever pass Congress. Nonetheless, it provides ammunition for those who would say that the GOP wants to take away women’s rights to abortion, access to birth control, and a host of other things.
Indeed, many on the left are using the Akin comments to make a broader point about the GOP itself:
None of this changes the substance of the Republican Party’s stance on abortion. “Personhood” amendments have become popular with Republicans on the state level, and the human life amendment—which is functionally indistinguishable from “personhood”—has been a part of the GOP platform since 1984, with nearly identical language in each instance. Platforms don’t dictate the policy of elected officials, but they are a statement of the party’s values and aspirations.
What does the GOP aspire to? An America where abortion is outlawed in all instances: no exceptions for rape, no exceptions for incest, and no exceptions for medical emergency. The variety and availability of contraception would be sharply limited, and the rate of pregnancy significantly higher. The rate of abortion might go down, but the number of women killed as a result of illicit abortions would be guaranteed to increase. Todd Akin would be happy with this world; the human life amendment would keep women from “punishing” children and result in a world where even more were born as a result of rape.
Do average Republicans actually believe this? I think it’s pretty clear that they don’t. While the party as a whole is pro-life, public support for exceptions to laws against abortion for cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger are fairly widely supported both in GOP and in the public as a whole. The no-exceptions position that the platform seems to be about to take is there because of the influence of the social conservative wing of the party which, while far from a majority, certainly is both very vocal and very active. The problem for the GOP is that this group also forces the party into taking policy positions on issues like this that are largely out of line with the rest of the American public and, most importantly, with suburban middle-class women. The GOP already has a gender gap problem that has the potential to have a serious impact in more than one battleground state, thanks to Todd Akin and this idiotic platform plank, they’re likely to have an even bigger one.