TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

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

Posted in: Abortion and Reproduction, Politicians and Candidates

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • jayeldee

    You write, ‘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 have [sic] are asking Akin to drop out of the race. These are good signs.’

    No–those are “bad signs.” On the first point, R/R’s generous allowance of abortion after a rape only reiterates their arrogant presumption that they have the RIGHT to “allow” abortion–or not. And on the second point, encouraging Akin to shut up and get lost only emphasizes their incredible dishonesty and cowardice; had they an ounce of the opposite of each sorry trait–which they and all of their ilk possess in spades–they would encourage Akin to stay on, and speak out. They are charlatans.

  • Anonymous

    But, but, … anti abortion, anti evolution, anti separation-of- church-and-state are inextricably tied to who the main body of anti-abortion Republicans are. Add to that the American history revisionism of David Barton and their Christian supremacy views (7 mountains), and one sees a dangerous force in American politics. Anyone who thinks this bunch is going to get into office (House and Senate) and forget about Jesus and salvation is going to be sadly mistaken.

  • Anonymous

    Good post for an Objectivist readership. Although, I don’t think it will convince any anti-abortion readers.

    To do that you would need to argue that their position is indeed dogma. Otherwise, it may come across as demanding that they drop their principles and allow what they consider murder if it’s politically expedient. But this runs counter to the topic of the previous post on this blog.

  • Anonymous

    Mike Kevitt here: They need not and cannot drop their principle because they don’t have one on this subject. They only have a dogma, which they must drop, then take up the principle of individual rights.

  • Anonymous

    You and I know it is dogma, but many anti-abortionists don’t see it that way. The better anti-abortionists have a mix of dogma and rationalistic arguments, which they think are reasonable.

    Saying “drop your dogma” will not convince them. The only possibility is to try and show them that their arguments don’t hold up, that they contradict the very thing they purport to value – human life – and that ultimately their case rests on religious dogma.

  • egoist

    On the positive side, perhaps this episode does two things: boots Akin out (I voted for somebody else in the primary, due Akin’s religiosity, impotence on out of control spending and my favorite – singing hymns on the capital steps on the night of 9/11/01, rather than drafting a declaration of war), and making abortion something of a toxic subject for republicans.

  • Anonymous

    …. They …. must …. take up the rights of the individual ,,,,

    America’s founding principle and libertarianism’s truly definitive foundation: The Principle of Individual Liberty, from which descends the Right to Life! (And Liberty and Private Property)

  • Anonymous

    Surely the real question asked by that RINO’s ignoramus comments is how can the open-primary votes of the “Democrats” and that criminal gang’s control of the machinery of elections have been permitted to have seen to the selection of so damned stupid a senatorial candidate?

  • Anonymous

    I really don’t think they have a dogma; they deeply and truly believe a fetus is a person. That’s an error, not a dogma.
    On their position: “if I am a woman and i have another person inside of me, and it is a threat to my life, isn’t it self-defense to kill it?”
    That sounds extreme, but how is it not a logical corollary to “a fetus is a person.”

  • Martin Lundqvist

    With the exception that a fetus is not a person, self-defence is indeed a valid argument in the case.

  • Martin Lundqvist

    You can find some good ideas here on abortion, and why anti-abortionists have (contrary to what they claim) a pro-Death stance:

  • Martin Lundqvist

    Seriously? Are you pissed off because R/R *doesn’t* totally outlaw abortion?