Lost in the national outrage and politics following an inflammatory statement made Sunday by GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin in Missouri is the reality that, on a fundamental level, there is no policy difference between Akin's comments and the mainstream GOP platform.
CNN reported on Monday that the draft of the GOP's official 2012 platform calls for a federal ban on abortion with no exception for rape and incest survivors -- the same policy Akin was trying to defend when he asserted that victims of "legitimate rape" have a natural bodily mechanism that prevents them from getting pregnant.
The platform also demands that the government "not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage," a policy that harkens back to the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act of 2011. The GOP sponsors of that bill, including Akin and current GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), tried to narrow the definition of rape as it relates to abortion; only "forcible rape," the bill originally stated, warrants insurance coverage for abortion. The language was removed before the bill passed.
Akin's remarks and the ensuing outrage from both parties forced Mitt Romney to rein in his running mate's conservative position on abortion. The Romney campaign announced Sunday night that the Romney/Ryan ticket supports abortion in cases of rape, even though Ryan previously opposed it.
But if the draft of the GOP platform is any indication, the Republican National Committee will not include a rape exception in its platform. "Our platform language is the same [as] it's been in 2004 and 2008," an RNC spokesperson told The Huffington Post when asked if it would consider a rape exception. "It's a strong pro-life position that doesn't get into granular specifics. We leave those to the states."
Ten GOP-controlled state legislatures, over the past couple of years, have passed bans on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation that do not include an exception for rape victims. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) recently tried to pass the same ban in the District of Columbia.
Romney and Ryan could be unsuccessful at severing ties with the Akin mindset. Ryan, in addition to having sponsored a federal fetal personhood law that would force rape victims to go through with their pregnancies, plans to headline the "Values Voter Summit" next month alongside a number of prominent Akin supporters. The Family Research Council, the primary sponsor of the event, came to Akin's defense Monday, telling Politico that it still supports Akin "fully and completely."
FRC president Tony Perkins lashed out at Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) for saying Akin should drop out of his Senate race. “[Brown] should be careful, because based on some of his statements there may be call for him to get out of his race,” he said. “He has been off the reservation on a number of Republican issues."
Romney, RH Reality Check points out, has accepted the endorsement of Dr. John Willke, a prominent anti-abortion doctor. Willke, president of the Life Issues Institute, wrote a book with a chapter on rape from which Akin could have easily pulled his facts:
"Her body is upset," Willke writes, referring to the rape victim. "Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle ... Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain which is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy."
Ultimately, Romney and the Republicans' success in the upcoming election could hinge in part on their ability to distance themselves from members like Akin, although Akin's comment only underscores a position many Republicans are trying to codify into law.
UPDATE: 1:48 p.m. -- The Republican platform committee approved the draft on Tuesday that calls for a constitutional ban on abortion without exception for rape victims, Politico reports.
"I appreciate the good work that that committee did -- in past platforms that has been hours of discussion -- and I applaud the committee's work in affirming our respect for human life," said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the committee. "Well done."
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