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Republicans' Shocking Positions on Rape and Pregnancy Aren't Outliers -- They're Central to the GOP Agenda

With the takeover of the G.O.P by the religious right, Mourdock's position on abortion, rape and incest is in line with the party platform -- and echoed by top party leaders, including Paul Ryan.
 
 
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With all of the excitement attending the recent comments of Richard Mourdock, the Indiana Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, that a pregnancy conceived in rape is “a gift from God,” much of the political class is shaking its collective head at the refusal of presidential candidate Mitt Romney to revoke his endorsement of Mourdock -- or at least to pull his endorsement ad for the former state treasurer from the Hoosier state airwaves. What they’ve missed is the fact that, in the Republican Party of today, Mourdock’s position is the new normal.

Even Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, held a no-exceptions abortion stance -- at least until Romney, who would allow exceptions for rape and incest, elevated him to the national ticket. As reported by TPM:

“I’m very proud of my pro-life record,” Ryan told WJHL-TV in Virginia in an interview aired Thursday. “I’ve always adopted the idea, the position, that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.”

Nearly all of the Republican presidential primary candidates take the same position: that a rape-induced pregnancy is the will of the Creator -- and they signed a pledge in Iowa that said as much. Of the 33 Republicans running for U.S. Senate this cycle, all but three are anti-abortion, and among them, at least nine oppose any exceptions in cases of pregnancy by rape and incest. (That the incest portion of this position has gotten little attention is even more troubling: Should an 11-year-old-girl really be required to bear her father a child?)

Against some stiff odds, the Republican Party is smelling winds of change that would render it control of the upper chamber this year, which would require a net gain of four seats. Romney doesn’t dare risk harming a single candidate -- or his own chances of winning the votes of religious-righters -- which he could if he withdrew his support from any of them.

The party’s cruel platform

If you still have any doubts, just look at the abortion plank in the Republican Party Platform, as reported by the Associated Press:

The party states that "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." 

Note the lack of any exceptions.

With the takeover of the G.O.P by the religious right, beginning in 1976, the party’s position on abortion has been on a slow and steady march toward deepening misogyny. Women are to be punished not just for choosing to have sex, but for being sexual beings at all -- for having vaginas, if you will.

The critical Christian right vote

Although evangelical Protestants, who now comprise 26 percent of the U.S. population, were not always so draconian in their views on abortion, the movement’s alliance with the Roman Catholic Church -- which prohibits any exception, even to save the life of the pregnant woman -- has led to the present-day, Dark Ages dictates of the religious right on matters of women’s sexuality and sexual vulnerability.

Among the most influential of the groups comprising the Christian right is the Family Research Council, led by Tony Perkins. Here’s an excerpt from a pamphlet (PDF), The ‘Hard Cases' of Abortion: A Pro-life Response, published by FRC:

If we constantly reaffirm the value of life and the state’s duty to protect all life from the moment of conception, then we will see the number of pro-life supporters rise in the years to come.

Only an uncompromising, no-exception approach, that refuses to support or veto for legal toleration of the intentional killing of innocent human beings, can offer the educational potential to restore reverence for the sanctity of life of  every age and condition. 

In September, I reported Perkins’ assertion of FRC’s close relationship with Romney, whose campaign he called the most cooperative he had ever dealt with. The support of the evangelicals represented by FRC is seen as critical to Romney’s fortunes in November; to throw Mourdock under the bus would be to severely jeopardize Romney’s support among a crucial constituency.

Much of Romney’s ground game, as I have reported, is in the hands of Ralph Reed, through the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a church-targeting get-out-the-vote operation.

Romney’s endorsers

When he finally won his party’s nomination, Romney proudly accepted endorsements from his former rivals: Texas Gov. Rick Santorum, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Ga., and former U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania -- all of whom signed a pledge demanded by PersonhoodUSA that declared a no-exceptions policy on abortion. Were Romney to pull his ad in support of Mourdock, would he retain the endorsements of the also-rans, particularly Bachmann -- who announced her endorsement with Romney at her side -- or Santorum, who nearly bested Romney in the primaries?

Tell me where the daylight is between Mourdock’s position and those of Bachmann and Santorum. Here’s Santorum via the New York Times, from August 2011:

“To put rape or incest victims through another trauma of an abortion, I think is too much to ask.”

Here’s Bachmann during the June 2011 Republican presidential debate in Manchester, N.H.:

Q: [to Bachmann]: Gov. Pawlenty says he opposes abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is at stake. Do you have any problem with that position?

BACHMANN: I am 100 percent pro-life. I've given birth to five babies, an I've taken 23 foster children into my home. I believe in the dignity of life from conception until natural death. I believe in the sanctity of human life. Our Declaration of Independence said it's a creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the first of those rights is life. And I stand for that right. I stand for the right to life. The very few cases that deal with those exceptions are the very tiniest of fraction of cases, and yet they get all the attention. Where all of the firepower is, is on the genuine issue of taking an innocent human life.

The rape-baby Senate candidates

Then there are those Senate candidates. Here we offer you some choice quotes from news reports and the Republican Senate candidates themselves.

Josh Mandel, Ohio

In a spot interview by Marc Kovac of Ohio Capital Blog conducted the day after Mourdock made his infamous comments, Mandel, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, confirmed his no-exceptions anti-abortion position. While Mandel declined to comment on the Mourdock statement, he did offer this:


KOVAC: But it’s true that you do not have an exception when it comes to abortion. You’re pro-life in all cases--

MANDEL: I think it’s important to protect the life of the mother, and I’m proud to be pro-life.

KOVAC: Even in the possibility of rape?

[MANDEL DOESN’T SPEAK, BUT NODS]


Very clever, don't you think, the way Mandel avoids being quoted by bobbing his head up and down on the rape question?

Pete Hoekstra, Michigan

Asked to respond to remarks by Missouri Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin that women’s bodies “shut down” the process of conception during a “legitimate rape”, Hoestra, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the Detroit News reported:

But Hoekstra spokesman Greg VanWoerkom said Hoekstra rejects Akin's remarks, describing them as being in "poor taste."

He then accused Stabenow of trying to raise money off the controversy. Hoekstra is against abortion in cases of rape and incest, but makes an exception for the life of the mother, VanWoerkom said.

Democrats note Hoekstra has sponsored several congressional "personhood" bills to ban abortions and outlaw some forms of birth control.


Deb Fischer, Nebraska


During a debate with Democratic opponent Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Republican senatorial candidate Deb Fischer articulated a position in line with  Mourdock’s, as reported by the Omaha World-Herald:

"I am pro-life," Fischer declared. She said the only exception she approves of is the life of the mother. She did not include exceptions for incest or rape. Fischer distanced herself from Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's controversial comments about women's bodies being able to reject pregnancy as a result of rape.

Tom Smith, Pennsylvania

Challenging an anti-abortion Democrat in Sen. Bob Casey, Republican candidate Tom Smith opted to one-up his opponent with a bear-your-rapist’s-baby position, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Asked about his stance on abortion during a stop in Harrisburg, Smith said he opposed it in all circumstances, including rape and incest.

He then seemed to equate the trauma of a pregnancy brought about by rape with a woman's deciding to have a child outside marriage.

Smith backtracked under later questioning, saying that the situations were not exactly the same but that "a life is a life, and it needs to be protected."


Ted Cruz, Texas

The ever-crafty Ted Cruz, darling of the Tea Party and the religious right, has managed to avoid having a lot of pro-rape-baby statements floating around out there. However, the Texas Tribune reported Cruz’s position this way:

In their fierce battle for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, Dewhurst and Cruz, the former state solicitor general, both promoted their anti-abortion credentials, saying only when a mother’s life was in jeopardy should a pregnancy be terminated.

A contest for who can be the hardest on rape and incest victims! (Fought to a draw.)

Michael Baumgartner, Washington

Challenging Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell for Washington State’s seat is Michael Baumgartener, who takes up the bishops’ staff on the matter of rape, incest and abortion:

"I am still a Catholic. I still believe life begins at conception. That is consistent with my Catholic beliefs. And I believe we must protect life."

John MacGovern, Vermont

In Vermont’s U.S. Senate contest, the choice is between Sen. Bernie Saunders, a socialist independent, and MacGovern, a Republican right-winger. Slate’s Will Saletan reports:

In Vermont, the state right-to-life committee certified Republican nominee John MacGovern as “fully pro-life.” When MacGovern was asked whether “a woman should be forced by the government to give birth to a rapist’s baby,” he answered: “I’ve always in my career and to this day been loyal to the principle of life. I’m pro-life. I’m profoundly pro-life. I’m pro-life to my core.”

John Raese, West Virginia

Incredibly, Republican candidate John Raese, in his race against the anti-abortion Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, uses the fact that he has two daughters to justify his opposition to allowing abortions for girls and women who are impregnated through either rape or incest. From On the Issues:

I am pro-life. I believe life begins at conception and ends at natural death. I have two daughters, and every parent and grandparent who has seen an ultrasound or a sonogram of their child or grandchild already has an inherent problem with abortion. In the womb is where human life is at its most innocent and vulnerable stage, and I will proudly stand against the destruction of innocent human life unless the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

Adele M. Stan is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., who specializes in covering the intersection of religion and politics. She is RH Reality Check's senior Washington correspondent.