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.”

A joint statement by Missouri’s Republican senator Roy Blunt and four former Missouri Republican senators said they did not “believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race . . . The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important.”

The appeals strengthened the determination of Akin, who compared himself to “Braveheart” and said he was being attacked for “one word and one sentence on one day” by the “big party”. A devout Presbyterian who home-schooled his six children, Akin believes he is on a mission from God. He proposed legislation to name 2008 “the National Year of the Bible” and to promote the Ten Commandments.

Republicans have not known such embarrassment since David Duke, a former Louisiana state representative, former “grand wizard” of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and former neo-Nazi, insisted on challenging George HW Bush for the presidential nomination in 1992.

Party leaders failed to dissuade Sharron Angle of Nevada and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware – both of whom were supported by the Tea Party – from standing for the Senate in the 2010 midterm elections. Angle suggested Americans might have to take up arms “to fight for their liberty” while O’Donnell had equated masturbation with adultery. Both women lost.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published yesterday showed Obama leading, on 48 per cent to 44 per cent for Romney. About one-third of respondents said Romney cared more than Obama about average people, women or seniors.

The poll showed that Romney has not benefited from a “bump” for naming Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Twenty-two per cent of those polled said Ryan’s presence made them more likely to vote for Romney; 23 per cent said it made them less likely and 54 per cent were indifferent.

Fifty per cent of respondents agreed with Obama that Medicare insurance for the elderly should not be turned into a voucher programme, while 34 per cent agreed with Romney and Ryan. In yet another self-destructive move, the Republican platform calls for a transition to a voucher system, and for raising the age for Medicare eligibility.