The most unexpected issue in the 2012 presidential campaign has centered around abortion. True, abortion always has been a hot-button issue in American politics. Pro-life and pro-choice forces always have battled and those battles inevitably wind up in the political arena.
Much of the controversy this time around has been kicked up by differences within the pro-life movement that surround whether to allow exceptions in the case of rape, incest and danger to a woman’s life.
The Republican Party jumped into the controversy with both feet when it included at its political convention, a pro-life plank in its party platform without the usual exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the woman. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney practically insured that the issue would remain alive by selecting Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate. Romney is for the exceptions; Ryan is for no exceptions. Both Romney and Ryan tried to blunt their differences on the issue. Romney’s views as president would trump Ryan’s views as vice president, they claimed. The Romney campaign wanted to concentrate on their strongest argument for replacing Barack Obama – the weak economy. Every time Romney got back on message, the no exceptions debate got back into the news.
U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) who is running for senator, floated his theory that rape survivors don’t need abortions because the secretions from a woman’s body prevent conception so long as it is “legitimate rape.” U.S. Rep. incumbuent Steve King (R-Iowa) deflected a question about abortion being an option for 12-year-old rape victims as if that never happens. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) denied the possibility of abortion ever being necessary to save a woman’s life because of today’s medical technology. As each of these statements made national news, the Romney campaign had to stop and address the controversial remarks. But it really hit the fan when the only candidate that carries Romney’s personal endorsement in his campaign ads, Indiana senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock indicated that God controls whether a pregnancy occurs, even in the case of rape. The method whereby conception occurs is besides the point, Mourdock said, as a life is a life. Romney, placed squarely on the spot, refused to withdraw his endorsement of Mourdock, while other prominent Republicans such as John McCain (R-Ariz) withdrew theirs. That Romney disagrees with Mourdock was all the Romney campaign could manage in response.
While Republicans tried to paint Mourdock as an outlier on the abortion issue, the plain fact is that not only is this the official position of the Republican Party, but also its vice-presidential candidate. Republicans loathe to be called on the issue because they know it can cost them votes.
Those who don’t allow for any exceptions involving abortion have logic on their side. If you believe life begins at conception, then it logically follows that all abortions are murder. Once you are on this path, it must also logically follow that not only a doctor performing an abortion is guilty of murder, but so is the woman having the abortion. No politician is willing to take religious purity that far, even Ryan.
The “no exception” debate within the pro-life movement illustrates the thorny thicket of turning the religious views of some into law in America where a diversity of beliefs exist. It is the reason why, no matter how imperfect the Roe v. Wade ruling, it is the best answer to the problem at this time. What seems perfectly consistent with their religious views to some, seems to others like having someone else’s religion forced down their throat.
It is ironic that Republicans, who profess such reverence for the Constitution, appear all too willing to blur the line between separation of church and state. Republicans, who like to quote the Founding Fathers extensively, willfully ignore that this country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution. It is no accident the Founding Fathers erected a constitutional barrier between church and state. It was erected to frustrate those that want to write their own religious beliefs into our laws.
Some may think that I am being unfair by pinning the problem on today’s Republican Party, but that party has only itself to blame. It has driven its moderates right out of the party, and with them went any sign of restraint on these issues. Yet at the same time, Romney realizes that the dark underbelly of his party is not freedom, but infringement of our personal rights. So Romney, the self-proclaimed “severe conservative,” is now running as a moderate. He is the wolf in lamb’s clothing. His right-wing base knows where his heart really lies.
As Barack Obama recently pointed out, the next president will likely get to shape the Supreme Court. It is not a scare tactic, but a fact relied on also by the other side. Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance because as the Supreme Court goes, so go your personal rights.
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