Mitt’s Futile Nothing-To-See-Here Moment on Abortion

It’s not surprising that Mitt Romney would want to tamp down any talk about abortion policy as “his” convention gets underway. It’s supposed to be a dog whistle issue, disposed of in the background by wildly radical language in the party platform, and then rhetorical winks and nods about “respect for life” and “judicial activism” and constitutional originalism.

Todd Akin kinda screwed up that plan, so Mitt’s trying to get the genie back into the bottle, or so it seems from his “nothing-to-see-here-folks” comments on the subject in an interview published yesterday:

“My position has been clear throughout this campaign,” Romney said. “I’m in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother.”

“Recognize this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court,” he said. “The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It’s been settled for some time in the courts.”

Unfortunately, all Mitt probably did there is to arouse the suspicions of antichoice activists, who already don’t trust him as far as they can throw him. His spox had to repudiate his apparent endorsement of a “health exception” to a hypothetical abortion ban before sundown yesterday; it’s the mother of all abominations to serious RTL types, as even the ideologically tone deaf John McCain understood in 2008 in mocking the very idea during his joint appearance with Barack Obama at Rick Warren’s church.

And I’m sure Mitt’s going to have to “clarify” his suggestion that abortion is an issue that’s been “settled” by the courts. The “constitutionalization” of abortion policy via Roe v. Wade is essentially the one great Original Sin that led to today’s Abortion Holocaust, in the eyes of antichoice activists. That’s why the GOP party platform that Mitt’s campaign had to have signed off on endorses a constitutional amendment that would truly “settle” the question of fetal rights once and for all. And that’s why Republican politicians from coast to coast are sponsoring “fetal pain” bills that would chip away at Roe, banning abortions that would have universally been considered constitutionally protected in the recent past. Mitt might have heard of these bills, since he publicly promised to “advocate for and support” a federal version of them in a statement entitled “My Pro-Life Pledge” just last year.

Akin can certainly be blamed for stirring up a hornet’s nest of talk about abortion at the worst possible time for Romney and the GOP. But hedging and prevaricating about his own and his party’s positioning on the subject won’t work for Mitt. On this subject, the world’s most exacting and sleepless ideological commissars are constantly vigilant and determined to exert their iron control over the major political party they’ve finally managed to conquer.

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.