Todd Akin

Romney's Rape Exception

The Republican presidential nominee is less consistently pro-life than Todd Akin or Paul Ryan.


You know a politician has stepped in it big time when he feels compelled to produce an ad declaring that "rape is an evil act." The spot, in which Todd Akin apologizes for using "the wrong words in the wrong way," is part of his penance for saying, in an interview with a St. Louis TV station on Sunday, that "legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancy because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Akin, a six-term Republican congressman from Missouri who is running for the Senate, has backed away from that poorly phrased, medically dubious claim, which was condemned by a bipartisan chorus of critics, several of whom said he should withdraw from the race. But he stands firm on his position that rape does not justify abortion, and in this respect he is more logically consistent than many other Republicans who call themselves "pro-life," including the party's presidential nominee.

"The punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child," Akin said in the interview that led the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee to withdraw its support for him. "I believe deeply in the protection of all life," he added in a statement later that day, "and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action."

Mitt Romney takes a different view, as his campaign emphasized in its initial response to Akin's remarks. "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement," the campaign said, "and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."

That phrasing obscured the fact that Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, is a devout Catholic who agrees with Akin on this issue, as an unnamed "campaign official" confirmed in an interview with CNN. Ryan's longstanding position, shared by Akin, is that abortion should be allowed only when it is necessary to save the mother's life.

That stance makes sense in light of Ryan's view that fetuses are "living persons whose human rights must be guaranteed." In a 2010 essay published by the Heritage Foundation, the Wisconsin congressman likened Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision in which the Supreme Court overturned state abortion bans, to Dred Scott v. Sandford, the 1857 case in which the Court held that enslaved Africans and their descendants have no constitutional rights.

In both cases, Ryan said, the Court "'disqualified' a whole category of human beings" from constitutional protection, "with profoundly tragic results." Ryan has sought to remedy what he sees as the Court's error regarding the legal status of fetuses by supporting the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which declares that "each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood."

Romney likewise claims to believe that "life begins at conception"—not "from a theological standpoint," he said in a 2007 Meet the Press interview, but "from a political perspective," which presumably means the rights of fetuses should be legally enforceable. Still, although Romney was "always personally opposed to abortion," he was "effectively pro-choice" when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, promising he would not seek to restrict abortion rights. Later he had a "change of heart," but even today he believes, consistent with his Mormon faith, that "abortion should be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is threatened."

While that last exception can be justified on grounds of self-defense (albeit against a nonculpable "aggressor"), the other two cannot, and Romney has never clarified why rape or incest justifies taking an innocent life. Likewise the Mormon church, which cites the biblical injunction against murder in condemning abortion but nevertheless does not take as hard a line as the Roman Catholic Church.

"For many people," Romney said in a 2007 presidential debate, abortion "is considered an act of murder." Evidently he is not one of those people.

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  1. Romney’s Rape Exception

    What about STEVE SMITH’s rape exception? Setting you up for the obvious punchline in 3….2…..1…..

    1. There are no exceptions. STEVE SMITH will get to EVERYONE, eventually.

        1. Sweet! I can add them to my collection.

            1. Oh for God’s sake. *facepalm*

              Yesterday someone asked me why I have so few male friends. I asked why would I spend time with males when there are females?

              Why go anal when there is vaginal that women clearly enjoy?

              1. To show them who’s boss?

                1. Why go anal? I had a girlfriend who really got off on it. Even turned down a reacharound. Nothing better than both of us getting off at the same time during anal. She’d do it with no foreplay, either. I miss her sometimes.

                  1. You miss that asshole? Really??

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  2. What’s the deal with lumping in incest.

    Assuming it’s ‘consensual’ incest, any kid produced is likely to be normal. And even if they weren’t, who cares? If you think it’s ok to kill a fetus because it MAY be retarded, feeble, Kentuckyan or an abomination, why don’t you let them kill the ones that we KNOW are going to be that way (from pre-natal testing)?

    Also I wonder how much the incidence of rape would go up if abortions were legal only in cases of rape? I mean are you going to let the chick have one if she decides in week 11 that it was rape, despite the fact that she never reported it? What if she was raped in her sleep and never realized it until she was pregnant?

    Anyway, abortions for some, tiny American flags for others.

  3. Isn’t Akin simply taking a page from Sullum’s playbook, anyway? If we can expand government power over the control of abortion in the false name “fairness” then we can reduce government power over abortion.

    Akin is clearly a pro-choice Libertarian. Just yesterday, Mr. Consistency Jacob Sullum, was arguing that if we can only expand government recognition of personal relationships we can then reduce it. Well, he actually didn’t say anything about reducing it.

    Akin is more consistently Libertarian than Jacob Sullum?

  4. There is nothing libertarian about forcing women to give birth.

    1. On the other hand, there’s nothing libertarian about allowing murder to go unpunished. I guess the solution that protects women’s rights while protecting pro-life principles as well is to let women get abortions, then put them in jail for life along with their abortionists.

      1. That’s still coercive and therefore unlibertarian.

        Libertarians persuade, we don’t force. Forcing is the STATIST way.

        You think abortion is terrible, then persuade women to not get abortions.

        1. Additionally… If you think abortion is terrible, then don’t have one.

          1. If you don’t like no-knock wrong-door raids, don’t perform any, but don’t interfere with those who choose to perform them.

            1. Yes, that’s totally the same thing. Good logic.

              1. Libertarians oppose the initiation of force. If abortion isn’t the initiation of force, nothing is.

                1. If parasitically attactching yourself to someone’s body without their consent isn’t the initiation of force, nothing is.

                  1. Both positions are incorrect, eviction is alright but not the second step of murder outside the womb.

                    That way if technology improves enough then this argument is over, and everyone wins.

                2. Wait, but forcing a woman to have a child she doesn’t want isn’t force? Making a law saying what someone can’t do something isn’t force?

                  1. It’s permissible to use force to stop someone else from using force.

                    IE, police (or anyone else for that matter) could use force to stop a robbery, rape, murder etc.

                    If abortion is murder then you can use force to stop it.

    2. You can easily argue that women have the right to remove the fetus from their body, and are not responsible if it doesn’t survive afterwards. Whether or not they have the right to chop it up into bits along the way is what people disagree about, and I suppose depends on your viewpoint on trespass.

      Some people are big into Stand Your Ground in this kind of situation, other people believe in minimally necessary force, I suppose.

      1. Minimally necessary force should always be the standard.

        We know for a fact that you can just remove the thing intact, in most cases.

        Stand your ground doesn’t fit in at all, since the villain in that situation is an adult who may be armed and ready to attack the victim.

  5. While that last exception can be justified on grounds of self-defense (albeit against a nonculpable “aggressor”), the other two cannot

    Eh, they can be justified in terms of trespass, with a distinction made depending on whether someone was involved in inviting it. I think that logically the personhood stance would have to result in requiring that viable fetuses be extracted alive if possible.

    Sorry, don’t think that this one is logically inconsistent, either way. Just incompatible beliefs.

  6. You mean a politician uses the abortion issue to pander rather than to make an ideologically consistent point? Say it isn’t so!

  7. It is very irritating when choicers thump their chests and boast that they are purer than some hapless politician who wants to prohibit *most* abortions while allowing a rape exception.

    The choicer wants open season on the unborn, the Romney type of politician wants to protect *most* of the unborn. The latter position is, to me, way preferable. The Romneys are capable of being educated.

    And while some libertarian pro-choicers proceed under an “evicting trespassers theory” which doesn’t explicitly deny the humanity of the unborn, other choicers find it necessary to explain how the unborn aren’t really human. I would love to see these folks put on the spot and forced to explain exactly when someone becomes human, or at least sufficiently human to have human rights. At birth? At two?

    1. When does an unborn person become human? Ask the nurse who has to reassemble the baby’s body afterward, to make sure no fingers, toes, or limbs were left behind. Is this the best the baby boomers can do??? Freedom without responsibility!!?

      1. I am far more confident that a pregnant woman is a human being than whatever collection of parts is growing in her womb, and therefore do not support taking away the former’s rights in defense of the latter’s.

        1. Why can’t they *both* be human?

          1. Because calling a brainless ball of cells a human being distorts the meaning of the word “human”.

            I don’t think that a person who has experienced brain death and is being kept nominally alive by medical technology is a human being anymore, either.

            1. I am mostly pro-choice for now, until technology improves at least, but your reasoning isn’t the best.

              Mentally retarded people aren’t considered subhuman just because they have the intelligence of an animal. The reason abortion is ok is because a woman is not obligated, nor is any man obligated, to help other people. Now as a trespasser that can’t fight back, murder of the fetus is not necessary, only removal.

              1. Mentally retarded people are (mostly) much more intelligent than animals. I don’t have a problem with the state infringing on the rights of the severely mentally retarded for their own protection, however.

          2. We should preserve the woman’s right to have total control of her body. We should recognize that the fetus is “human life” and condemn abortion. However, it should be legal. “Political life” should and does begin at birth. Upon separation of the fetus from the Mother, we give the child a name, we begin counting for its first and subsequent birthdays, and we then get the poor child a social security number.

            If a woman’s pregnancy suffers a natural abortion, we don’t have a funeral. Everyone doesn’t dress in black and stand around a big hole in the ground talking about “dust to dust.” No, we feel sorry for the expectant mother and hope she’ll try again and write the dead fetus off as a “misfire.” We don’t say, “Poor little Jimmy died in pregnancy.”

            It’s time to grow up and accept that the woman owns her body and all the parts thereof, fetus included. We should respect human life, condemn abortion, and let the woman do whatever she decides to do, for better or for worse.

            1. Actually a number of families do have funerals for miscarriages.

        2. But if there is a comparison of rights, its a fetus’ right to exist vs a mom’s right to not be forced to give birth- serious contrast of consequences there.

          The primary difference between the two is that the pregnancy results from mom(and dad’s) choice.

          1. Obviously not in the case of rape!

            1. Agreed, clearly not in the case of rape (as far as choice is concerned.)

              1. Of course they have a morning after pill for that.

    2. “The choicer wants open season on the unborn”

      Yes, that’s what someone who believes in choice wants, open season on killing babies.

      You are obviously very smart.

  8. Assuming that some men want to reproduce at any cost, making abortion illegal in the case of rape incentivises rape.

    1. There are ways to reduce these incentives without killing innocent human beings. For example, we could have some sort of system by which rapists are punished, reducing their incentive.

      I would be cool with having rapists castrated while they are serving their prison sentences. Emotionally (though not philosophically), I am sympathetic to executing rapists, as the law used to provide – until the same Supreme Court which declared a right to abortion said that executing rapists is “cruel and unusual punishment.”

      1. forcing a rape victim to carry to term is also a form of punishment. There is a huge difference between consensual sex that resulted in pregnancy and an act of violence that does so.

        Life is not always fair and tough choices often have to be made. I will side with the rape victim.

        1. Forcing anyone to have a baby under any circumstance is pretty brutal I think.

          Libertarians don’t force other libertarians to help people.

      2. You can reduce the incentive, but cannot eliminate it. Consider the extremely low rate of conviction in cases of rape. Making abortion illegal creates a situation where rape is an effective reproductive strategy.

  9. Isn’t it possible, though he has not clarified, that he is considering not just the physical well being but the mental well being of the mother.

  10. all the wanking aside (wank wank wank), if there is one thing i am 100% confident in, there is no “libertarian” position on abortion

    it all comes down to how one WEIGHS competing rights

    what ‘right’ does the fetus (at various stages of development) have to survive and to what extent does that trump the woman’s right to abort it?

    and you don’t have to think abortion is the moral equivalent of murder, to think it’s wrong and/or should be illegal

    PERSONALLY, i am pro-choice, and by that i mean a woman should have the right to abort ON demand… in the first trimester

    i do not believe it should be legal to abort “on demand” or merely because of god forbid depression in the third trimester. the fetus is MORE human/closer to human, and thus deserves greater protection

    but that’s me

    what IS clear is that conscientious libertarians come down on both side of the issue

    what’s also clear, is that as matters of constitutional law, roe v. wade and planned parenthood v. casey are two of the WORST examples of judicial activism and curve fitting an ideology into a bogus legal justification

    i mean, cmon

    and of course IF the principals allegedly enshrined in those two cases were taken seriously, the govt. could not prohibit drug use. it’s AT LEAST as much a privacy concern as the abortion thang

    1. nicely put

  11. I would agree that abortion is one of those things where there is no one specific libertarian position. If you believe an unborn child is a human being with all the accompanying rights, then the libertarian position would be to oppose abortion as denying the baby’s right to life. After all, when the rights of two or more people are in conflict, life trumps pretty much everything else.
    On the other hand if you believe that a fetus is not yet human or does not yet have rights, then the libertarian position would be to defer to the mother’s choice and keep the government out of it.

    The only truly non-libertarian positions I can think of on abortion would be “I’m against abortion because I hate women”, or “I’m in favor of abortion because f*** babies”. I’d like to think that very, very few people think that way.

    Wait, no, I thought of one more! Believes that the unborn are fully human, but favors abortion anyway to “decrease the surplus population”, as Scrooge would say.

    1. I think the Libertarian position, is akin to seeing a homeless man sleeping on your lawn.

      I don’t think this man should be murdered, but he doesn’t have the right to stay there either. Each side should go there separate ways and eventually technology will allow babies to survive outside the womb in any trimester.

    2. i generally agree, except i don’t think it’s that binary

      iow, as i said, one can believe that, for example, a 2nd trimester fetus is NOT a “human being with all the accompanying rights” but also not merely a “clump of cells with no rights whatsoever”

      my viewpoint fwiw, is that as the fetus gets closer to full development, a greater justification is required to abort it.

      simply put, no justification needed at first trimester

      but clearly, substantial justification at 2nd trimester

      and at, for example, 8 months, extraordinary justification

      1. I didn’t mean to imply that it was binary, I was just using those as two pretty clear-cut and common positions where “the libertarian stance” would be different depending upon your beliefs.

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