Hardline views on rape in Republican mainstream

WASHINGTON: First it was Todd Akin. Then Steve King. Then Joe Walsh. Then Richard Mourdock.

One after another, Republican congressional nominees opened their mouths, inserted their feet and embarrassed their party.

Mr Akin, running for the US Senate in Missouri, said rape survivors don't need abortions because ''if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down''.

Mr King, an Iowa congressman up for re-election, deflected a question about abortions for 12-year-old rape victims by saying: ''I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that's been brought to me in any personal way''. Mr Walsh, a House incumbent in Illinois, asserted that ''with modern technology and science, you can't find one instance'' where abortion is necessary to protect a woman's life or health.

Mr Mourdock, the Republican nominee for US Senate in Indiana, opined that ''even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen''.

For Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, these episodes have been a two-month headache. First, he had to override his vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan's, opposition to abortions for rape victims. Then he had to apologise for Mr Akin's comment. Then he had to apologise for Mr Mourdock's. And the apology tour might be just getting started, because they are hardly alone.

Their view - that abortion should be banned even in cases of sexual assault - isn't just the party's official position. It's the most commonly held position among new Republican nominees for the US Senate.

Thirty-three Senate seats are at stake in next month's election. Five are held by Republican incumbents whose nominations were never seriously contested. In the remaining 28 states, three nominations (Connecticut, Hawaii and Rhode Island) were won by pro-choice candidates.

Eight (Arizona, California, Florida, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wisconsin) went to candidates who said abortion should be outlawed except in cases of rape or incest.

Three (Delaware, Maryland and Minnesota) went to pro-lifers who haven't clarified their stance on exceptions. The rest - 12 nominations - went to candidates who would ban abortion even for survivors of sexual assault. That's a plurality of the party's primaries.

In Vermont, the state right-to-life committee-certified Republican nominee, John MacGovern, as ''fully pro-life''. When asked whether ''a woman should be forced by the government to give birth to a rapist's baby'', he said: ''I've always in my career and to this day been loyal to the principle of life … I'm pro-life to my core.''

In Ohio, the state Treasurer, Josh Mandel, rejected a rape exception: ''I'll do everything I can to protect innocent life.''

In Michigan, congressman, Pete Hoekstra, was asked if a woman should have to bear her rapist's child. Already on record against a rape exception, he replied: ''I believe life is a gift.''

In New York, a member of Mr Romney's Justice Advisory Committee, Wendy Long, boasted during her primary that she was ''100 per cent pro-life'', whereas her opponents would grant ''exceptions'' to an abortion ban.

In Washington, state senator, Michael Baumgartner, admitted that ''rape is a tragedy'' but concluded: ''I still believe life begins at conception. That is consistent with my Catholic beliefs. And I believe we must protect life.''

In North Dakota, a reporter asked the congressman, Rick Berg: ''You would not make an exception for rape?'' Mr Berg replied: ''No.''

The Senate numbers for Republicans are equally striking. Of the 28 non-incumbent nominees, 12 to 15 share the view of Mr Akin, Mr Mourdock and the party platform: a rape victim should not end her pregnancy.

This is no longer a fringe position. It isn't a couple of gaffes by renegade crackpots. It's the predominant view among Republican nominees for the nation's highest legislative body. It's what the Republican Party is.


This story Hardline views on rape in Republican mainstream first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.