The Washington Post

How bad is the anti-abortion bill Paul Ryan and Todd Akin co-sponsored?

The national battle over Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” has shed light on a “personhood” bill, co-sponsored by Akin and Paul Ryan, called the Sanctity of Life Act. Much of the chatter today has focused on whether Ryan opposes abortion in cases of rape. The Romney campaign confirmed today that Ryan does personally oppose it, while clarifying that a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose it.

But what about the other legal implications of the bill Ryan and Akin co-sponsored? In an interview just now, Dem Rep. Louise Slaughter, one of the leading pro-choice voices in Congress, raised two startling possibilities.

“One of the questions around this legislation is, Could a rapist who impregnated a victim sue that victim if she decided not to carry that baby and to have an abortion?” Slaughter said. “Another question: Could in vitro fertilization be outlawed?”

It’s unclear how this legislation would work. The bill affirms that from the moment of fertilization onward, “every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” It then says that Congress and the states have the “authority” to protect all human beings — again, defined as human life from fertilization onward — residing in their juristictions.

Slaughter’s suggestion is that this affirms the authority of Congress or the states to pass laws outlawing IVF, since that procedure requires the destruction of embryos, or that it could give legal weight to a rapist’s insistence that his victim not abort her baby — though again, it’s unclear how this would work.

“What it says is that a single cell can achieve all the protections the Constitution of the United States bestows on persons,” Slaughter said of the bill. “Scientifically the law is crazy.”

Separately, Obama and Dems are broadening their push to tie Akin to Ryan and the rest of the GOP. Obama pointed out today that Akin and Ryan had both co-sponsored another measure, since withdrawn, that would distinguish “forcible rape” in banning abortion funding. Obama said Akin’s comments point to the GOP’s broader record on women’s health, noting that they underscore why “we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”

It’s not clear to me what the intentions of the Sanctity of Life Act’s co-sponsors were. I have not been able to reach any of them for comment today. But given that the GOP’s Vice Presidential candidate is one of those co-sponsors, it seems legitimate to ask him whether he agrees that the states should have the authority to outlaw abortion in cases including rape or incest, or even to outlaw IVF.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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