Republican stance on abortion mirrors Akin's
The platform adopted for the convention makes no exception for victims of rape or incest, writes LARA MARLOWEin Washington
THE US REPUBLICAN party has adopted a platform for next week’s convention that mirrors the views of Todd Akin, the senatorial candidate who party leaders are desperately trying to remove from the race after his comment that women who are the victims of “legitimate rape” do not get pregnant.
For 12 years, Akin and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan have had identical voting records on abortion and reproductive issues in the House of Representatives. They have co-sponsored at least 33 bills restricting the right to abortion, which was granted by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision.
The platform adopted by a 112-member Republican committee meeting in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday night does not make exceptions for victims of rape or incest – the position taken by Akin and Ryan. Democrats gleefully labelled the platform’s demand for a “human life amendment” the “Akin plank”.
The continuing controversy over Akin’s remarks could lead to a confrontation at next week’s convention in Tampa between establishment Republicans, whose power has diminished, and social conservatives who have driven a wave of anti-abortion legislation. Republican-led state legislators passed 92 anti-abortion measures in 2011, an all-time record, and have passed 39 such measures this year.
The resurgence of the abortion issue is a nightmare for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Polls showed that when Republicans quarrelled over social issues last winter, President Barack Obama gained in popularity. When the Romney campaign concentrated on Obama’s handling of the economy through the spring and early summer, Romney’s ratings rose.
Abortion is one of many issues on which Romney has a well-established reputation as a “flip-flopper”. When he challenged senator Ted Kennedy in 1994, Romney said he “would not force our beliefs on others”.
In 2002, when standing for governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he supported “the substance” of Roe v Wade. But several years later, when he decided to make a bid for the Republican nomination, Romney described himself as “a pro-life governor in a pro-choice state”. Romney now says he opposes abortion but would make an exception in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.
He nonetheless sought the endorsement of 87-year-old Dr John Willke, a former president of the National Right to Life Committee and the originator of the theory that the female body “shuts down” (in Akin’s words) in the event of rape, making pregnancy unlikely.
Romney finally appealed publicly to Akin to withdraw from the US Senate race late Tuesday. “Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong, and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country,” Romney said. “Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”