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Mourdock's take on rape and pregnancy: What's Romney to do?

October 24, 2012|By Karin Klein
  • Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, says he opposes abortion in all instances.
Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana,… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)

To be fair, Richard Mourdock, the U.S. Senate candidate in Indiana, isn't a myth-slinging blowhard like another GOP contender for the Senate, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri. It's hard to forget Akin's less-than-expert medical opinion that in cases of "legitimate rape," women's bodies have ways to prevent a pregnancy, or as he put it, "shut that whole thing down."

Mourdock, a "tea party" candidate who won the GOP nomination over a more moderate Republican, was speaking on matters of faith, not (pseudo)science, when he said that even in cases of rape, if the woman becomes pregnant, that was something God had intended to happen, which was why he would not support keeping abortion legal in the case of sexual attack. He went on to say that he respected the differing beliefs of others, but, as he put it:

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

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Respect isn't the word I would use to describe Mourdock's position, though. If he respects the different beliefs about God, religious structure and abortion, he wouldn't be pressing to force his particular religious perspective on others. Instead, he'd say: Well, it's not something I can condone because of my religious beliefs, but it's not something I have the right to stop, knowing that others believe differently.

It is, of course, anathema to most women, the notion that a pregnancy as a result of rape was something God wanted. And it's hard to figure out how Mourdock's belief accounts for God not wanting a rape but wanting a birth from that rape. But again, these are his personal religious beliefs, and there is no way to generalize the logic of matters of faith.

The disturbing message, though, is that despite his statements of respect, there would be no room in his political philosophy for different viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are held by the women who would suffer by lack of access to abortion.

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The GOP's no-abortion, no-way, no-exceptions platform is altogether a frightening prospect, and if a Republican president gets the next picks on the U.S. Supreme Court, it could result in a dramatic shift in the reproductive rights that women fought for -- and then largely took for granted -- for decades. Mitt Romney has called for the undoing of Roe vs. Wade, though he also has differentiated himself from the likes of Akin and Mourdock, saying he believes in exceptions for victims of rape.

But Romney also filmed a spot supporting Mourdock's Senate bid, an ad that began appearing the very week Mourdock made his intended-pregnancy-from-rape comment. If Romney really wants the public to accept him at his word about exceptions in the case of rape, he should demand that the spots stop appearing -- though Democrats might like the idea of the GOP presidential candidate being so closely linked to a man now notorious for a widely unpopular position on women's rights.

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