United States House of Representatives member Todd Akin (MO-R) - and likely now former aspiring Senator - became famous for all the wrong reasons this weekend. As most likely know, Akin made some asinine and deplorable comments about rape victims on a Sunday morning St. Louis area broadcast, essentially stating that a woman's body will biologically allude pregnancy if the rape is a "legitimate" one link.
Obviously, Akin's comments made him toxic for his fellow Republicans. His party's members couldn't run from his comments fast enough, with prominent Republicans denouncing Akin's comments in droves.
Of course, the problem for many of those same Republicans is that their fundamental position on abortion is identical to Akin's. Sure, Akin said something profoundly ignorant - unfathomably ignorant actually - but his basic point was that he was against abortion even in cases of rape. That position isn't fundamentally different than the positions of Republicans such as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, who have both supported "personhood" legislation in the past. Some of those "personhood" bills were specifically targeted at making abortion illegal, regardless of the circumstances of the pregnancy link. Other similar bills were shockingly vague, such as the Paul Ryan sponsored "forcible rape" exception link.
Not surprisingly, Romney and Ryan are now fleeing from Akin's position, and in doing so have yet again become somewhat opposed to themselves on the issues. But, there's a bigger point here - one that could ultimately put Romney and Ryan in a very large bind: how exactly do they plan to define "cases of rape"?
People all across the country should be asking for details here, because they make all the difference. It's a rather innocuous position for a Republican to take regarding the abortion topic - exceptions for "rape", "incest", or "when the mother's life is in danger". But, again, how are those defined? Is "rape" only constituted if it's prosecuted in the court of law? How long do such trials generally take in order to reach a verdict? 9 months or more? We can all do the math here.
Further, what happens if the perpetrator can't be located? Is the woman simply out of 'luck'? Presumably, an actual law premised on prohibiting abortions "except in the case of rape" wouldn't allow for an accusation to be enough - otherwise, there'd be no mechanism to stop any woman who sought an abortion from making accusations of rape.
Similar issues would need to be reconciled regarding the "when the mother's life is in danger" exception - who gets to make that call? Presumably, a doctor would. But, how many times has a pregnancy been deemed healthy but the mother tragically and unexpectedly doesn't survive the birth? Does mental health play any role, or is it entirely premised upon physical health 'rulings'?
And, perhaps more importantly: If Romney and Ryan support "personhood" legislation with exceptions for rape, incest, etc., does that mean they supported the killing of human beings because those human beings' fathers were rapists, or because their mother had health problems?
The harsh reality is that once ANY exception is made to the "pro-life" stance, the position no longer stands as "pro-life". Any candidate who espouses support for exceptions has just made exceptions for "life", which would diminish the whole "pro-life" notion.
Romney and Ryan would have likely loved to skate by on this issue without ever having to define the nuances of their position. Now that Todd Akin has forced them to define it, they'd better be careful regarding how they flesh out their position. Otherwise, they may be making the sprint to the Presidential finish line with a few less toes.