Did Todd Akin Make the GOP's 28-Year-Old Abortion Plank Suddenly Relevant?


The platform that the Republican Party is expected to approve this week includes a plank declaring that "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed" and calling for "a human life amendment to the Constitution" as well as "legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children." That language is closer to the position taken by vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (and Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin) than the one taken by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who says he would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. It is hard to see how those exceptions can be reconciled with a "fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed."

Does it matter? As The New York Times notes, the GOP's two most recent presidential nominees, George W. Bush and John McCain, were both more flexible on abortion than their party's platform. So were Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush. Ronald Reagan, by contrast, took the Ryan/Akin position, saying abortion should be illegal except when necessary to save the mother's life. It was under Reagan that the current version of the abortion plank was originally adopted:

1972 (before Roe v. Wade): no abortion plank

1976: "We protest the Supreme Court's intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents' obligation and right to guide their minor children. The Republican Party favors a continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the efforts of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children."

1980: "There can be no doubt that the question of abortion, despite the complex nature of its various issues, is ultimately concerned with equality of rights under the law. While we recognize differing views on this question among Americans in general—and in our own Party—we affirm our support of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children."

1984: "The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We therefore reaffirm our support for a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children."

That plank has remained essentially the same since then, although it did not reflect the presidential nominee's publicly stated views from 1988 on. A constitutional amendment to ban abortion is, in any case, a highly improbable scenario, and any legislation construing the 14th Amendment to cover fetuses (such as the bill supported by Ryan and Akin) would be subject to Supreme Court review in the unlikely event that Congress approved it. The abortion plank, like the porn plank, is aimed at appeasing social conservatives without unduly alarming potential Republican voters who do not share their views. The assumption is that such voters, assuming they notice the pro-life lip service, will understand it has little practical significance.

Newsweek columnist Kathleen Parker, in an essay titled "What the *#@% Is Wrong With Republicans?!," argues that such appeasement is a big mistake. Parker concedes that "the human life amendment is actually a relic, having been part of the platform since 1984," but worries that the 2012 platform "also includes new language for the first time declaring abortion bad for a woman's 'health and well-being.'" I doubt that paternalistic judgment will upset many voters who are not already alienated by the nearly absolute ban on abortion that the party officially favors. But maybe Parker is right that the temporal conjunction of the platform's approval with Akin's widely ridiculed comments about rape will make the abortion plank more damaging than it would otherwise be.   

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  1. I really want to have a bumper sticker printed for my car:

    I don’t give a shit

    1. ^^^JESUS YES this.

      1. “JESUS YES”

        Christfag abort-freak!


  2. I am not getting tangled up in another abortion thread.

    Why is there no author’s name on this article?

    1. Because you can’t read?

  3. Snatching defeat from the hands of victory.

  4. This “war on woman” narrative the Dems are pushing actually seems to be working. I’ve had two female friends/coworkers bring it up to me unsolicited, and they’re both usually pretty independent-minded. I know they both watch the Daily Show; no doubt Stewart has been going on about this relentlessly.

  5. Of all issues, abortion strikes me as the one all libertarians should support as a fundamental divide between the reaches of government and an individual’s privacy. Even if you believe that a blastocyst has rights, shouldn’t the body, reproduction, and personal healthcare be so outside the purview of government that any intrusion would be frowned upon by libertarians? I mean, you don’t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-government-stay-out-of-my-underwear, do you?

    1. That’s where I stand.

      The only way to enforce anti-abortion laws is to effectively declare that every woman’s body is the property of the state.

      That clinches it for me. I don’t have to worry about when the developing cells become a human being, exactly, because the means of enforcement is so egregiously immoral.

      That said, both “sides” seem to be extreme, to me.

      One side opposes things like the “morning after pill”, which often can obviate the need for the sort of later abortion that can be called “killing a baby.”

      And the other side steadfastly insists that it’s a moral imperative that we place no restrictions whatsoever on “abortions” consisting of sucking a viable baby out part way, then sucking his/her brains out through a hole in his/her head while it’s still not fully “born” in order to stay technically legal under Roe v. Wade.

      Seriously, how many Americans are really on either “side”, so defined? I’d guess very, very few.

      1. The only way to enforce anti-abortion any kind of medical treatment or drug laws is to effectively declare that every woman’s person’s body is the property of the state.


        1. That is true. But I didn’t feel the need to open every can of worms in the world in one thread… 🙂

      2. The only way to enforce anti-abortion laws is to effectively declare that every woman’s body is the property of the state.

        That clinches it for me. I don’t have to worry about when the developing cells become a human being, exactly, because the means of enforcement is so egregiously immoral.

        I think that a reasonable compromise that a large majority of people would agree to is no restrictions on abortion in the first trimester and only allowing abortions after that for medical necessity.

        The fact is that something like 90%+ of abortions happen in that time frame now, that they are done with abortifacient drugs that are effectively impossible to police and that later term abortions are becoming increasingly rare because of the ick factor.

        The problem, as you say, is that the activists on both sides are absolutists.
        Pro abortionist people want to legalize infanticide while anti abortionists want to outlaw contraception.

        The pathetic thing is that they make up less than 5% of the total population on each side, and yet are able to command such a large amount of attention.

        1. This is why: http://www.stanfordlawreview.o…..tax-reform

          Congress creates and milks special interests on both sides for money and power.

          It’s not in any politician’s interest to come to some satisfactory conclusion that most people are okay with, and move on to other things.

    2. No? I mean, if the government was mandating some sort of invasive procedure, I’d be sympathetic to that argument, but banning a medical procedure that takes an innocent life (if you take the pro-life side) doesn’t seem out of sync with libertarian thought.

      I imagine that if the procedure in question involved taking the kidneys of unwilling donors, you wouldn’t excuse it in such a fashion. I doubt people would say “of course we should let doctors run professional, licensed kidney stealing operations. Do we really want to go back to the days where people performed illegal kidney transplants in dingy motel rooms using ice-filled bathtubs?” As with so many things on the abortion debate, most of the arguments only work if you start from pro-life or pro-choice premises.

      1. If the fetus is the government’s business, then everything illegal for children after birth must be illegal for the mother before birth: smoking, drinking, incorrect weight gain, wrong diet.

        Will we chain mothers to hospital beds with 24 hour guards?

        What about violations between conception and learning she is pregnant?

        How do you differentiate miscarriages from abortions?

        What if the mother would die? If abortion should be allowed if the mother has a 1% chance of survival, then we now know you approve of murder, we are just arguing over the odds. 10%? 50%? A doctor might goose the odds in borderline cases. What makes you think doctors can actually calculate any odds at all accurately?

        If exceptions are made for rape because the father is a criminal, that’s punishing the child for the sins of the father.

        If exceptions are allowed for rape because the mother shouldn’t be forced to have a child she didn’t want, will we also make exceptions for broken condoms? What if the father murders someone and she finds his baby repulsive?

        Will we kill children after birth for the same reasons?

        The mother alone is responsible for the child. Until birth, no one else CAN make decisions for the fetus. It is literally her business alone. Not even the father has any say in the matter.

        Anything else makes the mother a slave of the government.

        Society has never, to my knowledge, celebrated fuckdays, only birthdays.

    3. Enforcement is a huge issue with abortion to me. We don’t need another War on Americans. The government has enough of those going. Filling up prisons with otherwise law abiding citizens doessn’t sound like a very good solution. It certainly hasn’t worked in the WOD. I do think that as the technology continues to improve concerning the ability to view embryonic development, the further women are in their pregnncy, the less willing they will be to have abortions. That’s just my opinion.

      1. Abortion was illegal for a long time and our prisons didn’t fill up with pregnant women.

  6. I don’t think Akin’s abortion comments were as absurdly stupid as everyone thinks. I’ve heard a shitload (that is the technical term) of people who think that a woman having an orgasm increases the chance of conception. Weren’t Akin’s remarks just the flip side of this coin?

    1. Uh, I believe there is some scientific evidence for the orgasm-conception connection. It’s not a proven fact AFAIK, but it’s not absurd to believe it, either.

      1. Uh, I believe there is some scientific evidence that single encounters are less likely to produce a pregnancy than a given encounter within a series of encounters with the same man. It’s not a proven fact AFAIK, but it’s not absurd to believe it, either.

        That doesn’t mean Akin isn’t a tool.

        1. Are you aware of what he actually said, that reveal him to be such a tool?

          It had nothing whatever to do with “single encounters”.

          1. Yeah, I’m aware, that’s why I said he was a tool.

            And rape is almost always a single encounter.

            1. And rape is almost always a single encounter.

              Which has nothing to do with biological mechanisms to “shut down” the conception process. You’re a moron.

      2. BarryD – thanks for proving my point.

        1. Good starting point on this orgasm myth-

          1. How does that prove your point?

            People believe something relatively innocuous, based on some scientific information in the popular literature, vs. a politician who wants to take away our rights because of an erroneous belief for which there is no support?

            Critical thinking skills. Learn some.

            1. I agree that politicians who have actual power to affect our lives should be held to a higher standard. But I just wanted to point out that pretty much everybody out there believes in things that are incorrect and they attribute their beliefs to science, or “some scientific evidence”. Just staying on the subject of pregnancy, people have believed that there is “scientific evidence” that certain positions are more likely to result in boys, that douching with vinegar will result in a girl, that certain yoga positions increase the likelihood of conception, etc. So although I think his comments were wrong and stupid, I just don’t think they were ‘holy shit this guy is a fucking insane troglodyte” stupid.

              1. The orgasm-conception relation, along with some of the other statements you mention, would be essentially impossible to conduct rigorous scientific experiments on given current ethics attitudes. Conjecture is the best that we can get. People who believe them are not “wrong” any more than you are for disbelieving them without any scientific evidence.

            2. I’m not a mind reader, but I’ve heard people talking about Akin’s position alot in the last week and it seems to have to components. 1st is the myth of orgasm increasing the chances of pregnancy. The 2nd is that people that are having difficulty conceiving are told that various stresses make conception less likely. Leading some people to conclude that a major stressful event, like rape, would make conception very unlikely.

              Of course that is nonsense as demonstrated by innumerable cases of rape caused pregnancy through history, including war-time rapes.

              If the FBI study that 5% of rapes result in pregnancy is accurate (a very big if) then rape is statistically much more likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex.

              1. The orgasm-conception correlation is not a “myth”. It’s an unproved conjecture. Just like the belief that orgasm and conception likelihood are completely uncorrelated.

                It’s certainly plausible that rhythmic muscle contractions in the vagina could make it easier for sperm to traverse the distance to the tubes. This would also have evolutionary advantages and provide a partial solution to the puzzle of why the female orgasm exists in the first place. That doesn’t mean it’s true, but given the fact that scientific experiments would be very difficult to do in an ethical manner, that’s what we have to settle for.

              2. If the FBI study that 5% of rapes result in pregnancy is accurate

                It is as you say a very big if, particularly since people are much more likely to report rape to the authorities if it’s needed to publicly explain an unconcealable consequence of the rape, such as pregnancy. Also, of course, it’s rare for rapists to use a condom or allow the victim to put a barrier contraceptive in place before the act.

    2. Weren’t Akin’s remarks just the flip side of this coin?

      No. Akin said the woman’s body can prevent conception in case of rape. He didn’t say anything about orgasm (which can happen during rape, and can fail to happen during consensual sex).

      Even if he had been talking about orgasm it still wouldn’t have been the same. Making an event more likely if X occurs does not imply that the event never happens if X does not occur.

      1. The supposed link between orgasm and conception is based on the assumption that a woman’s body can increase the likelihood of conception under certain physiological and psychological conditions besides the ones we would consider important like the amount of sperm present etc. The comments by Akin are based on the assumption that a woman’s body can decrease likelihood of conception under certain physiological and psychological conditions besides the ones we would consider important like the amount of sperm present etc.
        Hence, it is the just the other side of the coin.

        1. He didn’t say “decrease likelihood”, he said “prevent”. Those are very different things. As are rape and lack of orgasm.

          Maybe Akin’s statement was based on hearing about the conjectured orgasm connection through a particularly distortive grapevine, but that doesn’t justify saying something so palpably ridiculous.

    3. No. Even if true, and it may be, it has no bearing on what Akin actually said. The opposite of “Orgasm increases the chance of conception” is not “Rape cannot result in pregnancy,” it’s “There is less chance of conception without a female orgasm.”

      1. *Not that I’ve ever experienced a woman not having an orgasm during sex. [ahem]

        1. Maybe jorgeborges is such a stud that he can’t imagine a sexual encounter where the woman doesn’t have an orgasm.

          1. If Japanese pornography is to be believed, women orgasm often during rape, if not more so than with regular sex.

            1. Women also orgasm when tentacles are being inserted into their orifices.

              You can really learn a lot from the Japs and their kinks.

  7. As to the politics I mentioned in an earlier thread the GOP’s plank has provided donations and votes to the Republicans for years. I think it’s working just fine for them.

    1. Yeah. There is a segment of the population whose entire political consciousness consists of pro-life bumper stickers and donations to anyone who hammers the anti-abortion gong.

      What’s greater, the cost or the benefit of pandering to these people? Hard to tell.

  8. Well both of my parents have always voted republican. Always and forever I thought. I’m trying to convince them to vote Libertarian this time around but I think they’re going to vote democratic because they don’t want to “throw away the vote”… but the reason for the change?

    The current republicans scare the crap out of them… mostly for the abortion stuff but other items as well. The republicans are well and truly blowing it.

      1. Yeah, it’s that time again. Every fucking election the Democrats wheel this stupid shit out.

        “I’m a lifelong Republican, voted for every one since General Grant, and I’m extremely conservative, but dagnabbit they’re just too darned conservative by golly. I’m a Christian who believes in Jesus and I hate abortion too by golly….Obama 2012!”

        1. Real squishy moderate “life long Republicans” would consider the former governor of our most liberal state and his pro-union, big spending running mate to be a DREAM TICKET.

    1. I really have a hard time believing that there is a single person in this country who has changed or will change his vote from Romney to Obama or vice versa because of the abortion issue. If you were passionate enough about being pro-choice to have that be your swing issue, you were already voting for Obama.

      This election is about the economy and people’s opinions on what the candidates will do about it, plain and simple.

  9. Why would anyone base his/her vote for president on the abortion issue? Even if this is your pivotal issue (and I really don’t understand why it would be), the President has no role in the Article 5 amendment process, so it’s irrelevant if he supports or opposes the life amendment or whatever they call it. He does appoint SCOTUS justices, but there’s virtually no chance that the next President would get to appoint enough Justices to overturn Roe, particularly if it the next President is a Republican (which means the liberals won’t retire, unless they die, during his term). At most, he could appoint Justices that would vote to uphold or strike down some incremental restrictions like parental notification laws.

  10. The “Ryan/Akin position”, Jacob Sullum? Are you taking marching orders from the Obamas too now?

    1. Yeah that was pretty shitty. Personally, if someone doesn’t say it, or say they agree with it, I’m not going to ascribe it to them automatically.

      1. It’s like saying the Obama/Hitler position, because both of them believe in state-funded health care.

        The position for which Akin is known is not his abortion position, it’s his conception mechanics position which Ryan presumably does not share.

        1. Hitler also spent a lot of money on building roads.

  11. Even if Roe v. Wade got overturned, all that would do is return abortion to being a States’-Rights issue (where it belongs along with same-sex marriage, gambling, prostitution and marijuana). Abortion will never be totally illegal in America. The main reason being that even though the majority of Americans think abortion is wrong, even among them, a large percentage don’t believe it’s the Government’s business wahat a woman does with her body.

    1. ^^This. I’m anti-abortion, but I’m also pro-Constitution. It should never have become a federal issue. One size does not fit all.

  12. Perhaps because I live in NYC, the vast majority of people that are not ultra-religious are not against abortion and don’t think it is wrong. What many of us do believe is forcing a young woman to have a child that she doesn’t want to be wrong.

    That said, I’m willing to compromise with the conservatives: deny women the right to their own bodies and futures for the sake of the people believe in the bible. I feel bad for those women in those states that abortion will be outlawed.

    I’m wondering, should we also eliminate the 13th amendment for those other people that believe in the bible and that black people are mere roaches?

  13. First, I believe commentators should identify themselves. I rank as a conservative/libertarian on the chart, and read Reason and National Review. Being in St Louis I’m very much aware of the Todd Akin controversy, but even more concerned with getting rid of McCaskill. To me, Akin is an error, in that he will probably cause Claire’s re-election, and Reid’s continuation as leader. This, to me, exemplifies the conflict between conservativess and libertarians which is, and will be, exploited by the common enemy. Akin is entitled to his social conservative views, but he coulda/shoulda kept his mouth shut. He gained not a vote, and lot many, by voicing a view that conflicted with Libertarian views on personal freedom and that of many “progressive” women, while satisfying SC views based on their reading of the scripture. So the Liberals get extended control of the Senate, and both SC and Liberatrians get… what? Let’s all that losing on principle is still losing!

    1. Why should we identify ourselves? Would that change the merit of our arguments?

      As to the rest, losing on principle might be losing, but winning on selling out your principles is also losing.

      “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mk 8:36

      1. That verse doesn’t say that you should act like a jackass and shoot yourself in the foot either.

        1. I don’t see anyone suggesting that.

    2. There is no fucking way I’d vote for Romney(or Obama) but if I was a resident of the Show-Me State I’d happily take Akin over McAskill.

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