Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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Friday, October 26, 2012

How Mourdock Is Helping To Give Romney A Free Pass on Abortion

Senate hopeful Richard Mourdock is only the latest of an alarming number of GOP candidates and current members of Congress who favor forcing rape survivors to carry resulting pregnancies to term.  But all the attention riveted on this extreme view is distracting us from the only slightly less extreme position that abortion should be banned, except when pregnancy results from rape and incest. That is the position held by Mitt Romney (at the moment, anyway) and many "moderate" Republicans. It's a position that would take us back to pre-Roe days, when panels of male doctors passed judgment on whether a woman had a good enough reason to deserve an abortion.  

It is also ideologically inconsistent: if conception marks the beginning of personhood, then Mourdock's position actually makes sense.  The fact that most of us, including many "pro-life" politicians, find Mourdock's statement abhorrent shows that, while many or most of us believe that abortion is a morally weighty decision, we aren’t prepared to treat an embryo as a person.  That recognition has enormous significance for the policy debate over abortion.  But no one seems to want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.  Harold Pollack, writing for the Nation, details the radical nature of Romney's view but oddly refuses to question it, adding that "[l]iberals such as myself should respect the moral depth and sincerity of the pro-life position."

It is not disrespectful to demand that a presidential candidate explain how his official position on abortion comports with public reason. Romney should be questioned closely: Is abortion murder?  If so, then why does he disagree with Mourdock?  And does he think the woman should be punished?  If abortion is not murder, why does Romney limit his exceptions to rape and incest?  How would he police these exceptions?  Does he think women have no other compelling reasons to seek abortion?  Is he comfortable with the government substituting its own moral judgment for the woman's?  Instead of seeking clarification on these critical questions, reporters and debate moderators give Romney a free pass because he seems reasonable when compared with GOP colleagues like Mourdock.  

The media focus on Mourdock and his bedfellows is not unlike the recent flurry of indignation over state-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds, which seemingly made everyone forget the offensiveness of "regular" pre-abortion ultrasound mandates.  The disturbing views of Akin, Mourdock, and other Republican politicians ought to be occasion to open up an honest public debate about the moral status of developing human life.  The hard question for Romney shouldn't be whether he still supports these candidates.  It should be how he can defend his own extreme and ideologically inconsistent position on abortion.

-CEB

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/reproductive_rights/2012/10/how-did-banning-abortion-with-rape-and-incest-exceptions-become-a-moderate-position.html

2012 Presidential Campaign, Abortion Bans, Congress, Fetal Rights, Politics | Permalink

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