As part of a GOP effort to distance itself from the offensive remarks on "legitimate" rape recently made by Rep. Todd Akin, GOP Vice President nominee Paul Ryan has joined in the pleas aimed at the Congressman to pull out of Missouri's fall Senate race. Ryan would not discuss the details of a phone call he made to his friend and anti-abortion ally, but the conversation must have been awkward. Akin was only articulating the view that there should be no exception for rape or incest that he and Ryan both attempted to legislate into law in vote after vote in Congress.
Ryan: 'Rape is Rape' ... Unless It's Not 'Forcible' Rape
Akin appeared on a St. Louis television station on August 19 expressing his views on whether women who become pregnant as a result of a rape should have the option of abortion.
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said.
The statement was absurd on its face. Some 32,000 women and young girls a year become pregnant due to rape, an estimated five percent of rape victims, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. But these facts never concerned Akin or Ryan who together with other radical anti-abortion members of Congress have pursued vote after vote to narrow the definition of abortion and backed John Boehner, the Majority Leader of the House, as House Republican's held the entire federal budget hostage and threatened a shutdown of all goverment services over Planned Parenthood funding in April of 2011.
Although Ryan recently responded to Akin's comments calling them "outrageous" and saying that "rape is rape," a bill he cosponsored would have changed the definition of rape so federal abortion funds could only be accessed in the narrowest of circumstances. In May 2011, 235 Republican and 17 Democrats in the House voted for the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." The bill was co-sponsored by both Ryan and Akin. Part of this bill allowed for hospitals to refuse to provide abortions even in cases where a woman's life depended on it, and could also deny her a referral for emergency care. In the original language of this bill, only victims of "forcible rape" would qualify for federally funded abortions. A "forcible rape" or in Akin's terms a "legitimate rape" was never defined and eventually pulled out of the bill in face of sharp criticism.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, about 80 percent of rapes are committed with no weapon used during the attack other than physical force. Ryan's recent statement "rape is rape," falls in sharp contrast to a provision of this bill he pushed which could have excluded eight out of ten rape victims from receiving abortion services due to a federal decision of whether or not their rape was traumatizing enough.
As noted by Jodi Jacobson, editor of Reality Check: "This definition by extension would have eliminated date rape, marital rape, intimate partner rape, the rape of a sex worker, the rape of a woman too inebriated to give consent, and other forms of rape as 'legitimate' forms of rape. It dismisses the reality that most rapes of women are committed by people they know. It is also no coincidence that the right wing wants to deny women in the military who have been sexually assaulted assistance for abortion care in the case of rape, and that some in the right wing have outright blamed service-women for being raped in the first place."
Ryan Regularly Opposes Access to Abortion
According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ryan has cast 59 votes on abortion issues, all of which were anti-abortion. In addition the "Sanctity of Human Life Act" he supported would give zygotes rights from the moment of conception and ban the most common kind of hormonal birth control.
Despite asking Akin to stand down, Ryan remains "proud of his pro-life record." Below are key votes in that record compiled by Mother Jones:
- The Sanctity of Human Life Act: This bill would have written into law that zygotes are legal people from the moment of conception. Like other, similar bills, it grants fertilized eggs the same rights as adult humans, and would make in vitro fertilization and some forms of contraception the legal equivalents of murder.
- The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act: Ryan cosponsored this bill in 2006, 2007, and 2010. It would require doctors to provide medically dubious information to all women seeking an abortion after 20 weeks gestation. The bill includes specific language that the Department of Health and Human Services would need to include in a brochure that doctors would be required to give to women. The brochure includes language like "the process of being killed in an abortion will cause your unborn child pain." It would also require doctors to offer "anesthesia or other pain-reducing drug" for the fetus.
- The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act: This bill, introduced in 2005, 2007, and 2011, federalizes state laws on parental notification for minors seeking an abortion. The bill requires doctors to notify the minor's parent or guardian in writing and wait 24 hours before providing an abortion.
- The District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act: This 2012 bill would ban abortions in the capital after 20 weeks gestation. It failed in the House on July 31.