When Todd Akin uttered those ill-fated words about “legitimate” rape and women’s uncanny ability to prevent pregnancy in most rape cases, he triggered a firestorm of rebuke from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Unwittingly, the comments of the House Representative and Senate candidate threw the political floodlights back onto abortion. High-level Republicans have asked Akin to step down, but those moves don’t change the strict anti-abortion platform of the GOP.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, have distanced themselves from the incendiary remarks, but Ryan’s a strong pro-lifer who thinks abortion should be banned even in cases of rape and incest.
Ironically, Akin’s gaffe to put all gaffes to shame may help the Romney campaign, Bloomberg View columnist Margaret Carlson explained, pointing out Ryan’s “no exceptions policies” are not a “politically popular position.”
“There’s not a way to close the gender gap if you’re going to split hairs on rape and you’re going to have no-exceptions,” Carlson said on Patt Morrison. “Now, Mitt Romney gets to come out and say, ‘I believe in exceptions and I want Todd Akin to get out of the Party.’ It’s a way ... to get back on a path that is more appealing to moderate women.”
But even if Romney seizes the opportunity to separate himself from Akin, will it be enough to sway more women to vote for the Republican candidate when their platform remains ardently pro-life?
“The Republican Party and its platform and its members affirm that all innocent life deserves to be protected and they also affirm the dignity of women,” said Kellie Fiedorek, a staff attorney and Capitol Hill liaison with Americans United for Life. “That’s where the party stands since 1976.”
Fiedorek described the current national policies on rape “radical.” She also disagreed that pro-choice advocates were advocating for women’s rights.
“Unfortunately, right now people fail to understand that true empowerment of women is recognizing abortion harms women, especially late-term abortion causes significant physical and mental complications for women,” Fiedorek said. “We really need to prioritize women’s health above all else and it’s the Republican Party that is doing that — and that’s what the platform affirms, that abortion does in fact harm women, it is not health care.”
She said her beliefs were based on “scientific fact” not necessarily morals. Fiedorek later explained that she didn’t believe this was a debate on exceptions, that the question of exceptions were a “red herring” meant to distract what the heart of the debate was -- which is, in her opinion and the stance of the Republican platform, the continued protection of all innocent human life.
“I don’t think people agree that all human life should be protected. We wouldn’t have abortion in America if all people agreed on that principle,” Fiedorek said. “Unfortunately, it’s the way we are right now in America, that we don’t all agree that all human life should be protected from the moment of conception. And that is a debate we need to have publicly in America.”
Will this stance hurt the GOP’s appeal to women? Will it energize the conservative base to benefit the Republicans? How will it affect the races for the U.S. House and Senate? How will Democrats maneuver to capitalize on the issue?
Kellie Fiedorek, Staff Attorney and Capitol Hill Liaison, Americans United for Life
Margaret Carlson, Bloomberg View Columnist