Republicans far and wide have poured scorn on Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) for his factually inaccurate claims about rape — Akin said that abortion should be banned in all cases because rape victims rarely, if ever, get pregnant — thrusting the conservative wing's extreme anti-abortion stance into the national spotlight. But Akin's views on abortion may not be so different from his party's. In fact, the GOP is preparing a platform that would call for a "human life amendment" to the Constitution, which would ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's life is in danger. "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," reads a draft of the party platform obtained by CNN. "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 Fourteenth Amendment was enacted in 1868 to give blacks the same rights as whites in the aftermath of the Civil War.) Mitt Romney does not support an absolute ban on abortions, and would clearly rather argue about the weak economy than engage in this culture war battle. But does the party's platform prove that Akin's views are in line with the GOP's — and that Romney is the odd man out?
Yes. The GOP has no tolerance for abortion: Akin is "in the mainstream of the Republican Party" on the issue of abortion, says Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect. The GOP wants an "America where abortion is outlawed in all instances: no exceptions for rape, no exceptions for incest, and no exceptions for medical emergency." A human life amendment would create a "world where abortions are deadly and more women are forced to carry the children of their rapists." And the party's stance is not just "empty language — 236 House Republicans voted for the Protect Life Act" in 2011, "which would have the same effect" as a human life amendment.
"The GOP wants to make this Todd Akin's world"
But Romney is not alone in breaking ranks: The human life amendment has been a part of the GOP platform since the days of Ronald Reagan, and presidential candidates have always ignored it, says NBC News' First Read. George W. Bush, John McCain, and now Mitt Romney have all differed with the party on this issue, with each calling for exceptions for rape and incest. Still, the timing of this story "couldn't be any worse" for Romney, and this shows that his "biggest problem heading into the fall election could very well be the Republican brand."
"The chickens may have come home to roost"
If anything, the GOP is getting more extreme: Sure, the human life amendment has been been an official plank of the party for some time, says Irin Carmon at Salon. But past GOP leaders, including George H.W. Bush in 1992 and McCain in 2000, at least tried to strike it from the platform. "Back then, pro-choice Republicans, or moderate ones, weren't a wholly endangered species and were putting up a real fight from within." Now, the "social conservative takeover has made that fight futile or near-invisible." McCain didn't bother to challenge it in 2008, and Romney certainly won't in 2012.
"GOP platform: Akin, enshrined"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Surviving a plane crash
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Ted Cruz and the most cynical, despicable political stunt of the year
- Everything you need to master Chinese cooking
- When men who abstain from pre-marital sex get married
- Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: The man who would be caliph
- The greatest sniper duel in history is a myth
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
Subscribe to the Week