Last week I argued that Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin’s anti rape, anti abortion stance is shared across the GOP. Akin, who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape, famously said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Despite being a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Akin uses non-scientific reasoning to perpetrate one of the most offensive and ignorant campaign season’s comments to date. When news of Akin’s spurious comments about a woman’s bodily response to rape swirled around in the blogosphere and across news desks, pundits connected the Missouri Republican senate candidate to vice president hopeful, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Both Akin and Ryan (along with other GOP colleagues) share the desire for an absolute abortion ban. There ensued a flurry of corrections and clarifications, particularly as Ryan attempted to distance himself from House colleague Akin saying on Pittsburgh’s KDKA, “I believe rape is rape, there’s no splitting hairs.” Then there were others who distanced themselves from Akin. Romney called on Akin to step out of the race. John Cornyn, the Texas Senator who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee asked Akin to step out of the race. Other big-name Republicans asking Akin to quit were his would-be colleagues, including Missouri’s junior senator Roy Blunt, who issued a joint statement together with former Missouri U.S. senators John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth, and Jim Talent. In advance of the Republican National Convention Tampa, the Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, instructed Akin to not attend. But no one spoke about the reality of the GOP’s platform on abortion. They diverted the media’s attention, focusing on rape, legitimate rape, forcible rape and showing signs of contrition for their blatant misogynistic comments. Among crisis communications professionals, the mantra for repairing a crisis is formulaic: 1) demonstrate you are appalled at the offense, 2) offer your apologies, and 3) offer an easily remembered meme. For Ryan, it was the simple ‘rape is rape’ meme to get the focus off of Akin and off him (momentarily).
For the GOP, Akin created a crisis for the Republican convention’s rollout of their freshly polished version of their 1976 platform. Back then they wrote “We protest the Supreme Court’s intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents’ obligation and right to guide their minor children. The Republican Party favors a continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the efforts of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”
I need to stop here to give a nod to GOP’s obfuscation in the phrase “the Supreme Court’s intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents’ obligation and right to guide their minor children” and to ask “Can you be anymore disingenuous?” Then in 1980, the GOP’s platform stated that they affirm “support of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.” When did the original constitution protect the unborn? It seems to me the 14th amendment quite plainly states that born persons are protected, not unborn. Fast forward to 2000 when 30-something Paul Ryan argued vociferously against any exceptions for abortion. In fact, in this video, Ryan states “Let me just say this to all of my colleagues who are about to vote on this issue, on the motion to recommit, the health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it,” Ryan said. “The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless.” In other words, let the women die.
Forward to September 2011, when the five presidential candidates at the Palmetto Freedom Forum were asked whether they would support legislation under Section Five of the 14th Amendment, that would restore legal protection for unborn children. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich said they would support such legislation. Mitt Romney said that he feared such legislation would provoke a constitutional crisis. Instead, he would focus on appointing judges who would return abortion regulation to the states. Then there is the fact that despite a sour economy, Ryan co-sponsored eight bills to that infringe on women’s rights (H.R. 212, 217, 358, 361, 1179, 2299 , 3803 and 3805). One has to wonder how Ryan can say with a straight face that he’s working hard for middle class America. It seems to me he’s working hard for the Catholic Church and for more accolades bestowed on him by the National Right to Life.
Now, it’s Convention week for the Republicans. And despite their denials of their War on Women, there’s ample evidence from all their legislative attacks on women’s reproductive and parenting rights. Readied as a draft for the convention, the draft of the GOP’s 2012 platform statement further demonstrates their draconian battle against women. It reads, in part, “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.” And “We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life.”
So, let’s ponder the implications for each line of the above text, keeping in mind that it’s not the entire text and keeping in mind that the above text was approved by the Convention. The implications bear careful consideration.
#1- Amending the 14th Amendment to give legal status to the unborn would unquestionably violate the rights of women.
#2- Protecting girls with parental notification from exploitation and statutory rape overlooks the grim reality that parents are often the perpetrators of sexual crimes against young girls including trafficking. And when young girls are pregnant, asking parent’s permission or notifying the parents often leads to disastrous results for the young girls including abuse and abandonment.
#3 – Assist women with unplanned pregnancies is a noble idea and is in effect for many state sponsored and faith-based charities, including Mormon and Catholic faiths. But coming from the ‘let’s reduce the government’ Republicans, it seems disingenuous to add more governmental interventions that are focused on abortion. In fact, the Republican party has been responsible for targeted regulations against abortion providers, all additional government interventions.
#4 – Abortion as an assault on human life is a value judgment that says the sanctity of innocent human life, the zygote/embryo/fetus, trumps the sanctity of woman’s human life. Abortion has saved the lives of millions of born citizens called women. Why don’t they count? When Republicans wave the flag and talk about the American dream, shouldn’t that include women’s American dreams to control their own lives, including their reproduction?
#5 – Women deserve better than abortion is, again, a value judgment coming from an informed mindset steeped in patriarchy and misogyny. Further, the judgment flies in the face of evidence-based research from respected scholars, practitioners and from women’s own stories. Can it be that the RNC wants to deny women’s realities, deny science and, more importantly, deny their war on women? The fact that a recent CNN poll found that the majority (83-88%) of Americans approve of the abortion exceptions for rape, incest and the physical health (screw her mental health) of the mother. Yet, folks like Akin and Ryan want no exceptions. Period. It’s like Ryan said when talking about rape, “ The method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” So, now rape is a method of conception?
#6 – Enable and empower women to choose life makes me recoil in Handmaiden’s Tale-type horror. How does one enable and empower a women to choose life if it isn’t through coercion? Women who do not want to be pregnant, will find a way to end their pregnancy, legal or illegal. How can men like Romney and Ryan be so obstinate, so willfully driven to impose their religious leanings on women? What happened to the separation of church and state? Hell, what happened to women’s rights?
So, this is what the Republicans value in their recent Convention platform that they approved. Ideologues are running the show. Paul Ryan wants no exceptions for abortion. Romney has said he would not oppose abortion in instances of rape. His position, however, puts him at odds with the official GOP party platform and with his little buddy, Paul Ryan. The official GOP platform wants to give legal rights to products of conception and to define ‘person’ as beginning at fertilization with an amendment to the 14th Amendment. Simply they want to make a cluster of cells a legal person while simultaneously annihilating a woman’s legal right to an abortion. Let’s not forget that birth control is also on the firing line amongst the current incarnation of the Republican party.
Writing about the Republican Party, Root columnist, Keli Goff, wrote that they seem “determined to set the health of American women back by more than a century, with targeting abortion no longer enough. Birth control rights are increasingly in the line of fire.” Speaking about the GOP candidates, she compared their treatment of the health, safety and rights of American women to Shari law and wrote , “I’m at a loss to see any real difference between the manner in which Sharia law penalizes women who are raped and the efforts of Perry and his Personhood cohorts to penalize American rape survivors with a nonconsensual pregnancy.” Other pundits argue that the extreme ideologues in the GOP want an American Christian Taliban.
All I can say to voters, think very carefully about your vote in November.