Like any political convention, the Republican National Convention was filled with little substance and mostly vague platitudes. But one piece of policy was made very clear in the Republican Party’s political platform, which was officially unveiled at the convention: The war on women is still marching along.
Specifically, the Republican platform on abortion still supports a constitutional amendment that bans abortion regardless of rape, incest and risks to the mother’s health. That would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion — in all circumstances.
To the credit of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, he said he would support exceptions for rape, incest and risks to the mother’s health. But Romney is still against abortion, and he advocated for personhood amendments, which would effectively ban abortions by defining a fertilized egg as a person.
The context of the current news cycle does little to help Republicans’ steady opposition to abortion rights. In an interview published on Aug. 18, Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin of Missouri told KTVI-TV, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors (pregnancy from rape) is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Like any politician after a gaffe, Akin claims he misspoke. But misspeaking typically means messing up one or two words. Misspeaking does not mean making a clearly spoken argument with a very clear point.
Republicans stepped in to do damage control by demanding Akin drop out of the race. Akin refused.
With the media and Republicans focused on women’s issues, Republicans unleashed gaffe after gaffe about women’s issues into the public sphere. After all, that’s what happens when Republicans are forced to be honest about their views on women’s rights — they show just how backwards their views are in comparison to most of the population, particularly among women.
The latest example of a Republican blurting out an offensive, poorly thought-out statement came when Tom Smith, Republican senate candidate in Pennsylvania, said pregnancy from rape was similar to pregnancy out of wedlock. Smith’s comment didn’t catch as much media fire as Akin’s comment, but it shows the same level of disconnect. Rape has somehow become a political issue among top Republicans.
To be clear, these are high-level Republicans. These are not local Republicans running for a parent-teacher association. These are Republicans running for offices at one of the highest levels of the federal government — the U.S. Senate.
For most Ohioans, this might seem like a faraway issue. These are issues in the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. Or maybe they’re issues in senatorial races in Missouri and Pennsylvania. Ohioans might not think women’s rights is much of an issue here.
But it wasn’t that long ago that state Republicans were pushing women’s issues in Ohio. Five months after inauguration, the current Ohio House of Representatives pushed the “heartbeat bill” — or H.B. 125 — through the house. It was labeled the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. It completely banned abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen just two or three weeks after conception, and it made no exceptions for rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances to the mother.
After similar anti-abortion laws in Virginia sparked protests around the country, the bill was indefinitely stalled in the Ohio Senate. Supposedly, it is no longer up for consideration. But that was only six months ago, and some Ohio women’s advocacy groups showed concern the bill would come back up when Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus sent a letter to his “Fellow Pro-Life Ohioans” in May.
Anti-abortion advocates also tried to push a personhood initiative onto the November ballot for Ohio. If enacted, the amendment would define a person as someone at any point in human development, which includes fertilization. That would ban abortion with, again, no exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s health.
It might not be getting too much coverage now, but just like Republicans at the convention, state Republicans have women’s issues in mind.