Whether or not he steps down from his Senate race in Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin's absurd anti-abortion notion that women can somehow "shut down" their body against pregnancy in cases of "legitimate" rape suggests the mindset of Republicans who would ban abortion entirely. That group includes the members of the Republicans' presidential convention platform committee. They voted Tuesday, with little debate, to renew the platform plank calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion for any reason. Period.
Never mind the general exemptions of rape, incest or risk to the life of the mother that GOP politicians generally say they would allow when they're out stumping for votes on an anti-abortion platform.
Given the power to defeat a Senate filibuster against them, in fact, most Republican incumbents in the House of Representatives would vote again to approve legislation seeking such a no-exemptions constitutional amendment. They made that clear last year when a heavy majority of their members approved a legislative attempt to amend what's known as the Hyde Amendment as they debated the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R.3).
They ultimately approved the H.R.3 bill, but only after proponents of a more restrictive bill lost their battle to restrict the definition of rape under the Hyde Amendment to "forcible rape." Many of those who sought that new definition mainly wanted an anti-abortion amendment that allowed no exemptions. That extremist view, a mirror of the platform committee's no-exception anti-abortion plank, couldn't hold support in a full House vote. But both initiatives still underscore just how rigid and inhumane the GOP extremists would make the party if given free rein.
Their argument over whether to recast the Hyde Amendment -- which since 1976 has allowed exemptions for federal funding for abortion in cases involving rape, incest and the health of the mother -- centered on limiting the rape and incest exemptions to "forcible" rape. In that debate -- and as Akin has since sought through a redefinition of "legitimate" rape -- they made, and continue to make, a flurry of irrational arguments.
They generally contend that abortion exemptions under the Hyde Amendment should not be allowed for pregnancies from statutory rape, or from rape perpetrated through the use of date-rape drugs, alcohol, threats and coercion. Rape without a brutal struggle, they essentially argue, is not really rape.
Several Republican House members also groused that allowing exemptions for statutory rape of underage females, or rape of women through coercion or drug-induced impairment, might allow females of any age to later claim that consensual sex was actually rape. In their view, women's word that they were raped in circumstances where they were not documentably beaten, bound and brutalized generally could not be trusted, and do not merit an exemption for an abortion.
The root of such conjecture and mistrust of women is founded in a chauvinistic view that has long been wrongly used by males to victimize women. It also wrongly disregards the broader sentiment of Americans about abortion. Most Americans reasonably do not favor an unfettered right to abortion, but neither do they favor an absolute rule against abortions under any circumstance.
The nation's more humane centrist view is already reflected in incremental restrictions on abortion in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The extremist attempt to prohibit abortion in any circumstance, however, is now driving the party's agenda. Akin is hardly alone: Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate, was an early advocate of the effort to ban abortion entirely in all circumstances. Voting for such candidates would propel their views and wrongly jeopardize the right of women to control their reproductive needs.