Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney may have strongly denounced Todd Akin, but Ryan now is batting off questions about his own hardline record on abortion.
The Romney/Ryan ticket has made clear that it’s Romney’s position on restricting abortion — which includes exemptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother — that will dictate administration policy. But Ryan’s long voting history in lockstep with the House GOP’s pro-life caucus, including a perfect 100 percent lifetime score from the National Right to Life Committee, is getting a new run in the spotlight since Akin shone a light on the party’s less popular positions. It doesn’t help that the RNC decided to enshrine Ryan’s more conservative approach in its official platform this year.
The most immediate issue confronting Ryan is his co-sponsorship of H.R. 5939, a bill banning federal funding for abortion that allowed exceptions only for what it distinguished as “forcible rape.” Top Republicans quietly removed the language after women’s advocacy groups claimed it would exclude statutory rape victims, among others. While most of the House GOP co-sponsored that H.R 5939, NBC recently discovered an earlier amendmentthat also included the phrase “forcible rape” that Ryan co-sponsored with only one other member.
Akin’s comments brought new attention to the legislation, not only because he was another co-sponsor, but because he used the same phrase to explain what he meant by his “legitimate rape” comments.
A much more far-reaching bill co-sponsored by Ryan, the 2011 Sanctity of Human Life Act, states that the “life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent” and empowers states to “protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions” that meet this definition of personhood.
Ryan denounced an exception for mothers’ health for a so-called partial-birth abortion ban in 2000 in fiery terms. “The health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it,” he said in a speech on the House floor. “The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless.”
Republican Govs. Bob McDonnell (VA) and Tom Corbett (PA) mounted high-profile efforts to pass mandatory ultrasound requirements in recent years, drawing a huge backlash from women’s advocacy groups. Ryan has his own history on the issue: He co-sponsored a House measure that would also require women to receive an ultrasound before an abortion.