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Todd Akin and the GOP’s Abortion Problem

Anti-abortion Republicans need to knock off their dogma-driven nonsense. The zealotry to outlaw abortion is morally wrong and politically suicidal.

Consider the latest controversy. Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, had the following exchange August 19 with Charles Jaco:

Jaco: Are there any circumstances in your mind in which an abortion should be legal?

Akin: . . . Sometimes people talk about life of the mother as a situation. . . . I would say you optimize life. So, for instance, a woman has a tubal pregnancy or something. Well, technically, by my understanding, life begins at conception, so you’ve technically had conception. But the child doesn’t have a chance and will soon kill the mother. So I would say in those kinds of situations you try to optimize life. . . .

Jaco: What about in the case of rape? Should [abortion] be legal, or not?

Akin: . . . From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.

While most of the popular debate has revolved around Akin’s idiotic phrase, “legitimate rape,” less attention has been paid to the full context of his remarks. Let us consider it.

By “optimizing life,” Akin means that he would permit abortion if both the woman and the embryo otherwise would die. If, on the other hand, doctors could save the embryo or fetus at the cost of the woman’s life, health, or well-being, then “optimizing life,” according to Akin’s twisted conception, may well require forcibly sacrificing the woman, an actual person, to her fetus, a potential person inside her body.

Even in his retraction, Akin emphasized that he would outlaw abortion in the case of rape.

Unfortunately, Akin is not alone in advocating this anti-life policy. Paul Ryan—now the Republican candidate for vice president—cosponsored a “fetal personhood” bill that would grant a fertilized “one-celled human embryo” a legal “right” to life.

Akin and Ryan would not only outlaw abortion even in cases of risks to the health of the mother and in cases of rape and incest; they would also outlaw in vitro fertility treatments that involve the destruction of embryos, as well as types of birth control that can prevent the implantation of a zygote (an embryo just after fertilization).

Fortunately, some Republicans are beginning to soften on their anti-abortion dogma. Whereas Ryan’s position on fetal “personhood” implies that abortion should be outlawed even in cases of rape, the Romney campaign recently denounced that view, stating that the “Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” Moreover, many Republican leaders are asking Akin to drop out of the race. These are good signs.

It is time for true lovers of life to openly and loudly declare that “pro-life” properly means “pro-individual rights”—which means keeping abortion, part of a woman’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, legal.

Tell the GOP that respecting the “sanctity of life” requires respecting a woman’s right to abortion.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Ari Armstrong

Ari Armstrong is an assistant editor of The Objective Standard. He blogs at AriArmstrong.com, and he has written for publications including the Denver Post and Complete Colorado. He is the author of Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles, a book exploring the heroic fight for life-promoting values in the Potter novels.


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