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Akin and the GOP's Abortion Problem

August 23, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

Mitt Romney and other Republicans may be publicly distancing themselves from Rep. Todd Akin’s [R, MO] recent comment on “legitimate” rape, but most congressional Republicans are on the record supporting policies that create similar distinctions in law.

Just last year 164 Republicans and 10 Democrats co-sponsored and voted to pass a bill, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” that sought to create a new legal distinction between different types of rape. Under the bill, only victims of so-called “forcible rape” would be able to use government funds or health insurance purchased on one of the yet-to-be-established healthcare exchanges to pay for an abortion. If a rape is deemed by a judge not to be sufficiently “forcible,” the victim would have to pay out of pocket if the rape leads to pregnancy.

[Read the legislative text redefining rape for yourself at this link. Roll call information is here.]

Another bill with hundreds of Republican co-sponsors that passed the House last year, the “Protect Life Act,” would allow hospitals that receive federal funding and oppose abortions to refuse to provide abortion services, even in cases where the life of a pregnant woman is at risk. Just like the forcible rape bill, Rep. Akin is an original co-sponsor of this bill, as is Rep. Paul Ryan and many other prominent Republican members of Congress.

Beyond legislation in Congress (and there are many more anti-abortion bills that Akin has had his hands in, which you can find here), the Republican party recently adopted a plank to its policy platform that would make all abortions and morning-after pills illegal, even in cases of rape and incest, for the sake of “upholding the dignity of women.” The language was added to the official Republican party platform earlier this week, without objection and without a vote.

Rep. Akin happened to sound particularly unintelligent in his comments, but the rape and abortion policies he was defending are in fact long-established, mainstream Republican ideas. Akin’s Senate race happens to be extremely important for the Republican party, and Romney and other Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Akin based on political calculations more than any substantial policy disagreement. The real problem for them is that Akin has let the cat out of the bag — his comments reveal the increasingly extreme anti-abortion positions of the Republican party, as well as the truly absurd sense of reality underlying the policies for some party members.

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