Abortion didn’t look as if it would be a major issue in the 2012 campaign, until Senate candidate Todd Akin delivered some outrageous comments about “legitimate rape” and his belief that women have a biological ability to resist impregnation from sexual assault. Now the Democrats are running hard against Akin, and laboring mightily to boost him onto the Romney-Ryan ticket, as a sort of shadow assistant vice presidential candidate.
This is not to say that the abortion issue has become less important to people on any side of the issue. And there are more than two sides. People who are generally “pro-life” or “pro-choice” come to different points where the conflict between the right to life, and the right to abort a pregnancy, becomes painfully difficult to resolve. There are plenty of people who passionately believe one of those rights has absolute and unconditional supremacy, but it is fair to say that most Americans struggle to balance them somehow. On the pro-life side, the question of allowing abortions for victims of sexual assault – the substantive issue Akin had been asked to discuss – is an example of such a difficult judgment.
Many people would prefer not to consider such a grim topic at great length. To judge from polls, a relatively small percentage of us are comfortable with legally compelling a woman to bear the child of a rapist. On the other hand, “why should we sentence a child to death due to the circumstances of her conception?” is a question that anyone with a functioning moral compass should find uncomfortable.
The Democrats are badly miscalculating by dragging these difficult issues onto center stage in the 2012 presidential campaign, and working to conflate the remarks that actually got Akin in trouble with his pro-life sentiments. They’re making a political mistake by overplaying the Akin card against people like Mitt Romney, who both denounced Akin’s offensive comments and formally asked him to drop out of the Senate race. Most Americans will not be impressed by Democrat attempts to telepathically divine what their targeted opponents “really think” about Akin, or assertions that Democrat party ideology should permit them to shamelessly lie about easily verified facts, like this:
But Democrats are making an even worse mistake by ignoring the realities of the abortion issue. The Obama campaign grabbed the Akin issue from a position of weakness and desperation, not strength. They were so desperate to find a means of inflicting political damage upon Republicans that they allowed themselves to forget their own candidate is the worst abortion extremist ever to hold the White House. They somehow forgot that they barely skated past Obama’s support for infanticide in 2008.
Barack Obama was all but alone in opposing legislation to protect infants who survived abortion attempts, when he was an Illinois state senator. His campaign slithered past the issue during 2008 by lying furiously about it, and a very helpful media was willing to uncritically accept their conflicting excuses and misrepresentations.
The legislation in question was necessary – as Ramesh Ponnuru noted at National Review, Illinois nurse Jill Stanek reported infants repeatedly left to die after live-birth abortions, and was told existing laws did not criminalize the practice. But Obama justified his opposition to the law protecting “born alive” infants by expressing his boundless confidence that abortion doctors could be trusted not to do something they were, in fact, already doing.
And the dismissive language he used was absolutely chilling: “As I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child – however way you want to describe it – is now outside the mother’s womb and the doctor continues to think that its nonviable but there’s, let’s say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just out limp and dead, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved.”
This was an unacceptable “burden” upon the “original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion” in Obama’s eyes, because the abortionist could be trusted to carefully determine if the infant had survived the procedure, and was now living outside the mother’s womb, rendering all lifesaving care that might be necessary. But they weren’t, and he knew they weren’t.
To this day, the Obama campaign maintains that a bill saying “a live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law” as “language clearly threatening Roe.” This means, by definition, that Barack Obama still thinks a live child born as a result of an unsuccessful abortion should not be fully recognized as a human person, because such recognition threatens his understanding of abortion rights. As difficult as the abortion question can be, very few Americans are willing to look upon a living baby, surviving outside the womb, and question whether it is a human being.
This is not something the flagging Obama campaign needed their candidate to be asked about. The American people are, if anything, steadily more inclined toward the pro-life position, with an especially strong movement in that direction among young people. Obama’s views are very far from the mainstream, and his campaign was absolutely foolish to forget that. Akin’s weird “legitimate rape” comments, which he has apologized for making, were repulsive. Obama’s substantive positions on abortion, which he has not apologized for, are perhaps even more repulsive.
The Romney campaign is much less likely to let him change the subject than the McCain campaign was, especially since Democrats are making such a big deal about abortion politics all of a sudden. During the debates, Romney should directly ask Obama if he supports horrors like sex-selection abortion and born-alive infanticide… and exactly how many of these procedures he expects American taxpayers to support.