Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party favorite who is running as a Republican for Senate in Indiana, has started a controversy related to his restrictionist views on abortion.
In a debate last night, Mourdock, who believes that abortion should only be legal in cases where the mother's life is at risk, said
"The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother," Mourdock said. "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something God intended to happen."
Mourdock's opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly responded:
The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in, does not intend for rape to happen - ever," Donnelly said in a statement after the debate, using the nickname for Indiana residents. "What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape."
Mourdock's position is not based on fake biology (as is that of Todd Akin, the Republican running for Senate in Missour, who asserted that "legitimate" rapes never result in pregnancy), but on extreme logical consistency that's heavily informed by religious thinking.
As someone who believes in very broad abortion rights, I disagree with him but can see the logic of his position: If you believe that life begins at the moment of conception (a much vaguer moment than commonly thought), then it is wrong to kill a fetus/child due to how it was conceived. That's not a difficult line of thought to follow but it is a genuinely unpopular one in America.
As Gallup shows, support for legal abortion under at least some circumstances comes in around 77 percent. Only 20 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal under all circumstances. In a different set of questions, Gallup asks whether people think abortion should be legal under any circumstances (25 percent), legal under most (13 percent), or legal only in a few (39 percent). Given that Mourdock allows only one exception - when the life of the mother is at risk - it's not clear that he would even fit into the "only a few" category that carries a plurality of Americans. (There's plenty to question about Gallup's phrasing, to be sure.)
Mourdock's uncompromising stand certainly adds to a picture of Republicans as extremist on the abortion issue. Even Mitt Romney, who has endorsed Mourdock and started buying ads for the guy via various PACs, has distanced himself from Mourdock on this score. But Gallup also finds that only about 17 percent of voters insist that candidates share their views on abortion, with the vast majority of voters considering it either "one of many important issues" or "not a major issue" in how they decide to vote.
RealClearPolitics rates the race between Mourdock, who bumped off six-term GOP incumbent Richard Lugar in a primary, and Donnelly a toss-up as of today, but polls haven't yet captured what if any impact the debate might have.