Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) today claimed the issue of a rape exception to abortion was a “detail” to be left up to states and Congress. On ABC’s This Week, George Stephanopoulos confronted the Governor and Party Platform Chair with the absolutist anti-abortion language in the platform he led the development of. This was his response:
McDonnell: We’re affirming that we’re a pro-life party.The details certainly are left to Congress and, ultimately, to the states and the people on how they ratify such an amendment. More importantly, what they do at the state level.
Stephanapoulous: So is the party for a rape exception or not?
McDonnell: The party didn’t make any judgment on that. It’s a general proposition to say we support human life. The rest of the details are up to the states and the people respectively, George. That’s simply not covered.
McDonnell’s view of the plight of pregnant rape victims appears to be par for the course in the contemporary GOP. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently referred to rape as simply one “method of conception.” Indeed, this may be because the Vice Presidential candidate and the broader Republican Party have consistently voted to limit access to abortion even for women who are victims of rape and incest.
Moreover, McDonnell’s interpretation of his platform language is misleading. As Stephanapoulous noted, the platform endorsed a Human Life Amendment “to make clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to all unborn children.” As the 14th Amendment requires all persons receive equal protection under the law, the practical effect of the amendment would be to render any law that allowed for any abortion in any case unconstitutional. This includes state-level laws, which means McDonnell’s line that the rape exception would be left to Congress and/or the states is flatly false.
McDonnell may be working hard to minimize the absolutist character of his party platform for a reason — Presidential candidate Mitt Romney supports exceptions for rape and incest, putting him at odds with the longstanding position of the Republican party platform.