Under Akin’s Cover

Props to The Atlantic’s Adam Martin for noticing something very interesting that’s happened during the furor over Todd Akin’s highly impolitic remarks about abortion and rape: GOP vice-presidential designee Paul Ryan has quietly “adjusted” his own position on the tiny number of abortions he’s willing to tolerate, bringing it into line with Mitt Romney’s.

While Ryan’s fans deny his cosponsorship of a federal law deeming a fertilized ovum a “person” eligible for the full protection of federal or state governments means he would ban all abortions, his longer record, according to the National Right to Life Committee no less, shows consistent support for abortion bans that exclude only procedures necessary to protect the life of the woman involved. And even on occasion when he’s supported “compromise” legislation that recognizes rape/incest exceptions, he’s been in favor of narrowing them, as in last year’s House GOP effort (eventually abandoned) to limit the rape exception to “forcible rapes”–an uncomfortable echo of Akin’s “reasoning.”

Now, all of a sudden, Ryan’s steered clear of those turbulent waters. But the whole brouhaha can and should stimulate new scrutiny of the logic behind the ban-except-for-rape-and-incest position that’s somehow been deemed “moderate,” as explained by Amanda Marcotte at TAP today:

While most everyone can see the absurdity of Akin’s comments, fewer pick up on the deeper problem of “rape exceptions” to abortion bans. When journalists and politicians refer to banning abortions except in the case of rape, they are assuming that there’s a way to construct abortion policy that allows women who “deserve” abortions to get them while preventing those dirty girls who consented to sex from having them. This is simply not the case.

What’s basically happened thanks to Akin is that the messy logic and morality of anti-choice GOPers and their rationalizations for positions that don’t sound politically toxic is under the microscope. From that point of view, even if Paul Ryan’s managed to reposition himself as more “moderate,” the whole ticket and the political party supporting it may find its troubles have just begun.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.