The Washington Post

GOP party platform sticks with antiabortion stance, does not address rape exception

As Republican officials continue their attempts to persuade Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri to end his bid for the Senate over his comments about rape and abortion, GOP leaders adopted a party platform on Tuesday that calls for a constitutional amendment protecting “human life” but does not say whether exceptions should be allowed in cases of rape and incest.

According to a plank adopted by a 112-member Republican committee meeting here, an “unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life that cannot be infringed.” The platform also calls for legislation recognizing the rights of unborn children under the 14th Amendment.

That language would appear to be incompatible with exceptions when pregnancies result from rape or incest. But the draft does not specifically address the issue of exceptions, and party leaders here said that the issue is too complex to be addressed in what is intended to be a broad statement of party principle, and that it should be left up to states in a federal system.

“We have a general plank in there that affirms our belief in the God-given right to life and that governments are instituted to protect that,” said Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, chairman of the platform committee. “The specifics are largely left up to the states.”

He added that the platform is intended to be a timeless document that should not be influenced by current events about “who said what.” He said, however, that he disagrees with Akin’s sentiments. “Those remarks do not reflect my views, or, I think, the views of this platform committee,” he said.

Akin has apologized for saying in a weekend television interview that pregnancy rarely results from “legitimate rape.” But he has not backed off the broader point he was making — that he is opposed to allowing abortions in cases of rape because it results in “harming another innocent victim.”

The Democratic National Committee quickly accused the GOP of adding an “Akin plank” to the platform, and Mitt Romney’s campaign quickly noted that it is not unusual for the nominee to differ with some parts of the official party platform.

Romney has said he believes that abortion should be illegal but that exceptions should be allowed in cases of rape and incest.

“It’s not at all uncommon to have slight differences between the platform and the nominee,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.).

The platform includes some new language on abortion for the GOP, including a call for legislation to “ban sex-selective abortion” and “to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain.”

It also offers a “salute” to states that have adopted mandatory waiting periods, new regulations for clinics that perform abortions and informed-consent laws — a nod to states such as Virginia that have passed laws requiring ultrasound exams before abortions.

Although Republicans are generally united in their opposition to abortion, there is division over whether the practice should be allowed in some extreme cases if the nation’s laws were changed.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council and a delegate from Louisiana, said he believed the platform broke “no new ground” on abortion.

He said that while he and other members of his group agree that abortion should not be allowed even in cases of rape, the platform states “broad policy positions. They’ve left it to Congress to work on the specifics.”

The platform was approved late Tuesday after a marathon 48 hours of work. It will be adopted by the rest of the party shortly after the opening of the Republican National Convention here on Monday.

The platform agreed to Tuesday also includes language endorsing traditional marriage as the best environment for raising children and calls for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage.

But it does not include a specific reference to reinstating the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban against gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military. Instead, it merely says that the party “rejects the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation.”

The draft includes planks designed to represent the views of tea party activists, with their focus on fiscal and debt issues, and supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.).

One plank calls for an audit of the Federal Reserve, a priority for many Paul supporters. Another would endorse a study of the feasibility of returning to the gold standard.

Yet another would add a constitutional amendment requiring the vote of a supermajority of Congress to raise taxes, except in times of war or national emergency.

Also, the platform endorses turning Medicaid into a block grant to the states and shifting Medicare to a premium-support model, in which seniors in the future are given a subsidy with which to purchase a private health insurance plan.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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