Congressman Paul Ryan outed the Romney/Ryan position on abortion last night during the vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. American women found out that Paul Ryan wants to ban abortion, and doesn’t really think that exceptions should be made since “life begins at conception.” This means that all life is precious (except for live children, the elderly, our troops, and people on death row).
RYAN (emphasis mine): Now, you want to ask about why I’m pro-life. It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor of course. But it’s also because of reason and science… All I’m saying is that if you believe life begins at conception that therefore doesn’t change the definition of life. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”
Ryan gave an uncomfortable nod to the far right, saying that he and Romney don’t believe “unelected judges” should be able to make those decisions. He also suggested that elected officials should be the ones in charge of Row V Wade, raising the alarm bell that a Romney/Ryan administration intends to implement a form of the Personhood Amendment, which did not make exceptions for rape and incest when Ryan introduced his version.
Ryan’s belief that life begins at conception means the Romney/Ryan administration would oppose abortion except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother, but that’s not the whole story, because Ryan has a history of working to restrict access even in the case of rape and incest.
In 2011, Ryan co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a Personhood Bill that defined life as beginning at conception. This is important because it uses the same words the public heard from Paul Ryan last night — “life begins at conception”. What does that mean policy wise? The Personhood Amendment does not make exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother and it can render some birth control illegal:
If the bills become law and zygotes are afforded the protection of legal personhood, abortion would be legally equivalent to murder, as would almost anything that interfered with the zygote’s development. That could include the morning-after pill, which primarily works by preventing fertilization but which anti-abortion activists insist prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. (Many scientists disagree.) Intrauterine devices (IUDs), which can prevent implantation, would also be affected by the laws.
Birth control is, of course, the best method of stopping actual abortions from taking place. Romney has said he wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, which not only offers many health related services beyond abortions, but also provides birth control to low-income women. Abortions don’t decrease when they are illegal, but women do die from illegal abortions.
The Republican Party platform also includes a constitutional amendment to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Many “pro-life” women, including Republicans, don’t think that abortion should be denied to a rape survivor. These are decisions that are best left to women and their families and doctors.
Paul Ryan worked with Republican Todd Akin to sponsor legislation that would have redefined rape as “forcible rape” and limited abortion coverage for rape victims. According to the Washington Post, “[a] Republican bill seeking to permanently cut off federal funding for abortions has angered women’s groups that say it alters the definition of rape, permitting coverage for the procedure only in cases in which the rape is considered ‘forcible.’ The most well-known provision that would become permanent under the bill is the Hyde Amendment, which prevents some federally funded health-care programs from covering abortions.” [HR 3 Co-Sponsored 1/20/11, Vote #292, 5/4/11; Washington Post, 2/1/11]
In an August 23 interview with WJHL-TV’s Josh Smith, Paul Ryan called rape a method of conception:
SMITH: Abortion, now. Something we’re talking about. And I think our viewers would love to know exactly where you stand, specifically when—you’re pro-life and Catholic…
RYAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
SMITH: …but specifically where you stand when it comes to rape, and when it comes to the issue of should it be legal for a woman to be able to get an abortion if she’s raped.
RYAN: I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that—the position that—the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life. [Ryan Interview, WJHL (Tri-Cities, TN/VA), 8/23/12]
Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, issued a statement on Paul Ryan’s desire to make abortion illegal, “A proud supporter of the ‘Let Women Die Act’, Ryan believes hospitals should be able to refuse abortion care to a woman even in cases of rape and incest, or when her life is in danger.” She continued, “And Paul Ryan has a track record of supporting measures that strip women of preventive health services, especially contraception coverage in the name of ‘religious liberty’. He firmly believes ‘our founding principles’ include allowing employers to deny women their basic health care needs.”
Contrary to Paul Ryan’s claims about President Obama’s birth control policies, the President expanded women’s access to contraception while protecting religious liberty by exempting churches and religiously-affiliated organizations from paying for contraceptive coverage. That is religious liberty for all, rather than imposing the religious beliefs of a few. Vice President Joe Biden explained that he believes in the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion, but, “I refuse to impose it” on others.
Mitt Romney has been dancing around the abortion issue telling the public one thing and conservatives another hours later, but Paul Ryan made it clear Thursday night that this ticket seeks to outlaw abortion.
Paul Ryan might be proud of his pro-death for women policies, but American women might not agree that he should be making their medical decisions. It will be interesting to see the polls on women voters post the VP debate.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.