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Abortion: Will Akin’s ‘rape’ blunder hurt Republicans?

Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican congressman and Senate candidate, caused a national furor with his claim that women cannot be impregnated by rapists.

“I almost feel sorry for Todd Akin,” said Joan Walsh in Salon.com. The Missouri Republican congressman and Senate candidate triggered a national furor last week with his deeply ignorant claim that women cannot be impregnated by rapists, because in the case of “legitimate rape,” women’s bodies have “ways to shut that whole thing down.” Akin’s statement not only horrified women, it panicked his fellow Republicans, who knew it would put a spotlight on their alliance with right-wing religious extremists. So they unsuccessfully pleaded with him to withdraw from the Senate race. But in his clumsy way, Akin was just trying to justify what has become mainstream Republican thinking—that abortion should be banned in all circumstances, even in the case of rape or incest. “The truth is that Akin is typical of today’s GOP, not some outlier,” said Frank Rich in NYMag.com. This year’s Republican Party platform calls for the same total abortion ban Akin supports. Paul Ryan, the party’s vice presidential candidate, describes himself as being “as pro-life as a person gets,” and has co-sponsored nearly 40 anti-abortion bills in the House. He even joined Akin as a co-sponsor of a “personhood” bill that nefariously distinguished between “forcible rape” and other types of rape. 

Akin is an idiot, said Mark Salter in RealClearPolitics.com. But his notion that rape victims “have special birth control powers” is his alone, not the Republican Party’s. What many pro-life Republicans do believe is that life begins at conception. If you sincerely hold that view, it follows naturally that the “unborn children of crime victims” deserve protection, even if they were conceived “in an awful act of violence.” Given the threats facing the country, why are we even arguing about abortion? said Mark Steyn in NationalReview.com. I’ll tell you why: Democrats don’t want to talk about Obama’s broken promises, the stagnant economy, or the ruinous deficit. Hence their phony claim of a GOP “war on women,” and their strenuous efforts to make Akin “the face of the Republican Party.”

It may be hard for a conservative male to understand, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, but abortion rights are not irrelevant to millions of Americans. Voters have noticed a strange contradiction within modern Republicanism, which demands “limited government that stays out of our business and lets us live our lives—but wants to police every pregnancy in the land.” If Romney is elected, said Michael Tomasky in TheDailyBeast.com,he’s likely to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices, moving the court far to the right. Roe v. Wade may well be overturned. And without Roe, “trogloconservatives” like Akin would ban abortion altogether in dozens of states. They might even ban in vitro fertilization, and some forms of birth control they contend kill fertilized eggs, such as the Pill and IUDs.

You want to talk about extremism? said John McCormack in WeeklyStandard.com. From his days as a state senator in Illinois, President Obama has opposed any restriction on abortion, including a law to “protect infants who had been born alive during botched late-term abortions,” and a ban on abortions for gender selection. His unwavering “commitment to abortion-on-demand” puts him way out to the left of the American mainstream: 72 percent of voters oppose public funding of abortion, and 86 percent favor third-trimester bans. When you compare this with Romney’s view that abortion policy should result from democratic processes in Congress and the states, said NationalReview.com in an editorial, it’s clear that the Republican nominee’s viewpoint is “light-years closer to the median voter than is Obama’s position.”

Democrats don’t seem to realize that, said James Taranto in WSJ.com. In their eagerness “to Akinize the GOP,” the Democrats are planning to put abortion rights at the center of their convention next week, with fiery speeches from such pro-choice absolutists as the heads of Planned Parenthood and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. This could backfire. Polls show that most Americans are very conflicted about abortion, with just 25 percent saying that it should be legal under all circumstances; 52 percent say it should be legal “only under certain circumstances.” A heavy focus on abortion may turn off swing voters, who just want to know who’s got the best plan to fix the economy. Todd Akin’s foolishness may doom his own Senate campaign in Missouri. “But we doubt it will save Barack Obama.”

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