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Ryan: Women’s Health Exception Rendered Abortion Ban ‘Virtually Meaningless’

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"Ryan: Women’s Health Exception Rendered Abortion Ban ‘Virtually Meaningless’"

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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) opposed an exception to a so-called “partial birth abortion” ban when the procedure was necessary to save the mother’s life, according to a 2000 floor speech on the issue. Claiming the women’s health exception included in the bill was “wide enough to drive a mack truck through,” Ryan argued uncompromisingly for it to be removed:

This is not a political issue, this is a human issue. And let me just say this — to all of my colleagues who are about to vote on this issue, on the motion to recommit — the health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a mack truck through it. The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless. [...] [H]undreds of OB/GYNs have told us that this is not medically necessary.

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Contra Ryan’s claim that the procedure (also known as “intact dilatation and extraction,” or D&E) could never be medically necessary, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists held that D&E reduced the risk of “catastrophic hemorrhage and life-threatening infection” and that “[t]hese safety advantages are widely recognized by experts in the field of women’s health, authoritative medical texts, peer-reviewed studies, and the nation’s leading medical schools.” As such, the American Medical Association, which believes D&E would be employed for health reasons in only a very small number of cases, said that “the physician must…retain the discretion” to use D&E if a particular woman’s health needs demand it.

Ryan’s position, by contrast, was most recently defended by former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), who called a provision designed to protect women from catastrophic hemorrhaging and infections “a phony exception which would make the ban ineffective.” This is all of a piece with Ryan’s long history of anti-choice zealotry, as he has cosponsored bills redefining rape and defining fetuses as persons with Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO). An absolutist position on abortion more broadly is enshrined in the GOP’s 2012 platform. Governor Romney has committed to exceptions for rape and incest, and Ryan defers to him in setting policy for the ticket.

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