Yesterday morning, before the GOP completely turned its back on Todd Akin, I noted that—despite their harumphing—few Republicans disagreed with the substance of Akin’s remarks. In Congress and across the country, GOP lawmakers have supported a raft of bills designed to restrict or end abortion, as well as most forms of contraception. Look no further than the Republican platform, which—as CNN reports—will include radical and restrictive language on abortion:
”Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,“ the draft platform declares. ”We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children."
Republicans have been quick to distance themselves from Akin. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown—who is running a tough reelection campaign against Elizabeth Warren, a liberal icon—has called on him to resign from the race. Nevada Senator Dean Heller followed suit—“He should not be the standard bearer for the Republican party in Missouri”—and was joined by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn. The Texas Senator advised Akin to “carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service.”
Even Mitt Romney issued a harsher condemnation after a tepid initial response: “Rep. Akin's comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong,” Romney told The National Review. “Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”
Of course, none of this changes the substance of the Republican Party’s stance on abortion. "Personhood" amendments have become popular with Republicans on the state level, and the human life amendment—which is functionally indistinguishable from "personhood"—has been a part of the GOP platform since 1984, with nearly identical language in each instance. Platforms don’t dictate the policy of elected officials, but they are a statement of the party's values and aspirations.
What does the GOP aspire to? An America where abortion is outlawed in all instances: no exceptions for rape, no exceptions for incest, and no exceptions for medical emergency. The variety and availability of contraception would be sharply limited, and the rate of pregnancy significantly higher. The rate of abortion might go down, but the number of women killed as a result of illicit abortions would be guaranteed to increase. Todd Akin would be happy with this world; the human life amendment would keep women from “punishing” children and result in a world where even more were born as a result of rape.
I don’t actually believe that rank-and-file Republicans want a world where abortions are deadly and more women are forced to carry the children of their rapists. But that’s the world a human life amendment would create. Moreover, it’s not empty language—236 House Republicans voted for the Protect Life Act last October, which would have the same effect.
Todd Akin is in the mainstream of the Republican Party on this issue, and has been for a long time. His only mistake was honesty.