From a credit downgrade last year to global warming, the Republican push for ideological purity has already had far-reaching impacts on the country. One emerging problem with the purity test is that it is very easy to fail, for conservative icons and rank-and-file Republicans alike.
Recently, the Georgia House considered a bill which would have prevented women from obtaining an abortion after 20 weeks, down from 26. Rep. Ron Stephens (R), who considers himself pro-life, originally voted against the bill, along with 16 other Republicans. In an interview with the Savannah Morning News, Stephens recalled his daughter Ashlin’s pregnancy just a few years before, when her child was diagnosed with trisomy, a devastating genetic defect, and how this bill would have affected his family’s decision:
“At five months, they told her part of her baby’s brain was outside the skull and the heart was inverted,” he said. “They said it would take only one or two breaths. She would have watched it die.”
After huddling with her family, she opted for an abortion. She discussed the option to terminate her pregnancy with her family. But she didn’t have to make the call, since she had a miscarriage shortly thereafter.
When the bill initially came to a vote in the House, there was no opportunity to amend it to provide exceptions for such situations. Stephens said he was so upset he felt sick and walked off the floor during the roll call.
“For something this cruel to happen to my daughter, or anyone’s daughter,” he said, “is just plain inhumane. I consider myself pro-life, but this provision was a distortion of pro-life values.”
In response, the Peach Tea Party blasted those Republicans, claiming they “displayed a willingness to depart from the conservative principles that form the bedrock of the Georgia Republican Party platform.” A blog on the group’s website referred to those Republicans as “RINOs,” or Republicans in Name Only. This was despite the fact that, when the bill was amended to exempt “medically futile” pregnancies like his daughter’s, Stephens voted for the bill, which passed.
For his part, Stephens said he isn’t worried about a primary challenge, telling the Morning News, “It might even help me with fundraising.”