The Republican Problem On Abortion

A post earlier in the week noted how the issues of abortion and birth control were harming the Republicans. In 2012 Republicans were particularly harmed by comments by conservative such as Todd Akin’s reference to legitimate rape and Richard Mourdock’s claim that a child resulting from rape is a gift from God. Politico discusses how this issue continues to cause embarrassment for Republicans. The issue returned this week when Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey raised the comments on rape by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock:

Gingrey weighed in on comments made by two once-favored GOP Senate candidates, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, who both lost to Democrats in 2012 following remarks they made about pregnancy and rape.

“Part of the reason the Dems still control the Senate is because of comments made in Missouri by Todd Akin and Indiana by Mourdock were considered a little bit over the top,” Gingrey said. “Mourdock basically said ‘Look, if there is conception in the aftermath of a rape, that’s still a child, and it’s a child of God, essentially.’ Now, in Indiana, that cost him the election.

“And in Missouri, Todd Akin … was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, ‘Look, in a legitimate rape situation’ — and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that.”

Gingrey pointed out that he had been an OB-GYN since 1975.

For someone trained in OB-Gyn to claim that Akin was “partly right” led to considerable publicity for his statements, helped by being repeated by many liberal sites.  A former member of Congress from California at least showed more sense than most of her fellow Republicans:

“There’s no way to defend what Todd Akin said,” Bono Mack said. “You just can’t do it and you shouldn’t try to put it into a scientific context. It was a bad statement. And to try to defend it or explain someone else’s poor choice of words, it would be a fool’s errand.”

She also pointed out how other Republicans did not understand the issue:

“It was my belief when I was in the Congress, and I tried to explain this to my colleagues: The abortion issue isn’t just about abortion. It’s about so much more. It’s about delving into what it means to women and what it means to Americans,” she said. For women, it means “a loss of autonomy. To Americans, it means government intrusion into their lives.”

It is ironic that many conservatives are arguing for a virtually unlimited right to own guns based upon claims of personal sovereignty yet deny the right of women to control their own bodies.

Republicans, understanding the political consequences of their views, are working to train candidates to avoid embarrassing comments on abortion. The problem is that they are not willing to abandon their position, which is both unpopular and morally repulsive. Doug Mataconis summarized the Republican problem:

The reality, of course, is that many in the GOP, especially it’s most conservative wings, don’t really disagree with anything that Akin, Mourdock, and Gingrey believe in when it comes to abortion. They oppose nearly all exceptions to a complete ban on abortion, with the exception of threats to the life of the mother. Their answer to women who have been raped or are victims of incest is that they need to bear the child, usually with a comment that “God intended it” or some such thing. When confronted with just how barbaric that position is, they end up coming up with ridiculous explanations for their position like what we’ve heard from these politicians. Akin, Mourdock, and Gingrey aren’t outside the conservative mainstream at all.