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GOP Ignores Its Nominee on Abortion Platform. Again.

August 21, 2012

The Republican presidential nominee was once a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade, but underwent a just-in-time pro-life conversion to seek his party's nomination. Kowtowing to the GOP's evangelical base, he named a hardline social conservative who opposed abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. Then the week before the Republican National Convention made his nomination official, the drafters of the GOP platform ignored their presidential choice and instead enshrined his number two's view and the draconian Human Life Amendment as party orthodoxy.
If you guessed this was the tale of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, you'd be right. Then again, if you suspected this was a brief history of John McCain and Sarah Palin, you'd be right, too.
In response to Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" outrage, Team Romney announced Sunday that "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape." While a reversal of Paul Ryan's past positions, that sound bite was at least consistent with the 2012 edition of "My Pro-Life Pledge" in which Mitt Romney proclaimed, "I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother."
And then Republican Platform Committee said "no." As CNN reported, the draft text of the 2012 GOP platform will once again codify anti-abortion absolutism:

"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," the draft platform declares. "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."

That's little changed from four years ago, when the 2008 Republican platform similarly declared that fetuses are entitled to equal protection and due process of law:

Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children.

That position represented quite a transformation for John McCain. After all, in 1999 he declared "I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations." But in anticipation of his upcoming White House run, McCain reversed course in 2006. By May of 2008, McCain explained his new position, one he wanted to see reflected in his party's platform:

"My position has always been: exceptions of rape, incest and the life of the mother," the senator said.
When asked if he would encourage the party to include them in the platform, he replied, "Yes," adding: "And by the way, I think that's the view of most people, that rape, incest, the life of the mother are issues that have to be considered."

As it turned out, not so much. Because in the interim, John McCain tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate. And she had a different view, one which became her orthodoxy during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. As she explained to ABC's Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric of CBS:

"My personal opinion is that abortion [should be] allowed if the life of the mother is endangered. Please understand me on this. I do understand McCain's position on this."

But McCain's wasn't the position of the Republican Party. And that conflict produced one of the most memorable--and disturbing--moments of the 2008, when John McCain disastrously tried to adhere to the party line during a debate with then Senator Barack Obama. After Senator Obama proclaimed, "I am completely supportive of a ban on late-term abortions, partial-birth or otherwise, as long as there's an exception for the mother's health and life," a sneering McCain used "air quotes" to mock women's reproductive rights:

"Just again, the example of the eloquence of Sen. Obama. He's [for] health for the mother. You know, that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, 'health.'"

Now history is repeating itself. But if 2008 was a farce, 2012 could be a tragedy for American women's health and safety. After all, in 1994 Mitt Romney declared his "unwavering support" for a woman's right to choose after revealing that "dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion." Having attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser with his wife Ann that year, during his 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts Romney again pledged, "So when asked will I preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, I make an unequivocal answer: yes." But by 2007, Mitt promised Republican primary voters he would be "delighted" to sign a bill banning abortions nationally. By 2011, he went further by endorsing the notion of state "personhood" amendments and so-called "fetal pain" bills. Nevertheless, at the Republican Convention next week, Mitt Romney's calls for abortion exceptions for rape and incest and for policy-making to be left to the states will go unheeded by his party.
Such is the state of the Republican Party. When it comes to women's health and reproductive rights, across the United States the GOP's bad science and worse law is blessing mythical "post-abortion syndrome," false links between abortion and breast cancer, unproven claims of "fetal pain" and even malpractice in "wrongful birth" cases. And like John McCain before him, Mitt Romney is learning that his Republican Party doesn't care what he thinks.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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