Last week, the Republican National Committee platform committee met to negotiate the planks of this year's party mission statement. The committee, chaired by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, met over the course of two days to hash out the party's official stance on issues like abortion, immigration and Medicare reform.

As The Huffington Post's Jon Ward reported, these documents can take on great meaning -- if people pay attention:

The platform is often like a wave. As it first crashes onto the shore every four years, the week before the convention, the party's presidential nominee and campaign monitor it for potentially damaging developments that may cause short-term damage. The convention is a key moment in every campaign, especially for a challenger like Romney who wants to introduce himself to a country that still largely does not know him.

As the convention arrives, the platform is overshadowed. It recedes from memory, and is ridiculed in the weeks and months afterward.

But then, out in the wide open sea of American politics over the next four years, the platform serves as a land mass, something solid that represents what each party stands for. It becomes a historical document, archiving the movements within movements. It is the work of unknown party activists who try, through the platform language, to push their different agendas.

"It's a symbol. It's a source of scripture if you will, in policy-making. It's a guide for voters," Clancy said. "Platforms are a window into the deeper principles and values of a party coalition."

This year's platform draft features some of the party's most extreme positions, taking a far-right stance on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Below, a look at this year's most eyebrow-raising planks:

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  • Abortion Ban With No Rape Exception

    <strong>What the 2012 Republican platform draft says:</strong> Republicans <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/gop-platform-spoiler-alert-no-exception-rape-incest-abortion-plank" target="_hplink">oppose</a> abortion in all cases with no exceptions for rape or incest. <strong>Romney's position:</strong> Romney <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120821/us-gop-convention-platform/" target="_hplink">opposes</a> abortion but supports exceptions for rape and incest. <strong>Obama's position:</strong> Obama <a href="http://www.vote-smart.org/npat.php?old=true&can_id=BS030017&npatform_id=69#0" target="_hplink">supports</a> the Democratic Party platform, which states that abortions should be legally available in accordance with Roe v. Wade.

  • Expanding Individual Right To Self-Defense

    <strong>What the 2012 Republican platform draft says:</strong> Republicans <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/gop-platform-spoiler-alert-no-exception-rape-incest-abortion-plank" target="_hplink">support</a> federal legislation that would expand the "fundamental right to self-defense." <strong>Romney's position:</strong> Romney <a href="http://www.mittromney.com/issues/gun-rights" target="_hplink">does not believe</a> the country "needs additional laws that restrict the Second Amendment." <strong>Obama's position:</strong> Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/22/barack-obama-gun-control_n_1693650.html" target="_hplink">believes</a> the federal government should work to prevent gun violence under "existing law."

  • Undocumented Immigrants Don't Count

    <strong>What the 2012 Republican platform draft says:</strong> Republicans <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/gop-platform-spoiler-alert-no-exception-rape-incest-abortion-plank" target="_hplink">supports</a> "changing the way that the decennial census is conducted, so that citizens are distinguished from lawfully present aliens and illegal aliens." This GOP plank assures that undocumented workers are not counted when tallying the national population. <strong>Romney's position:</strong> Romney <a href="http://www.mittromney.com/issues/immigration" target="_hplink">wants</a> to increase legal immigration to the United States as a way of strengthening the domestic economy. <strong>Obama's position:</strong> Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/15/obama-immigration-order-deportation-dream-act_n_1599658.html" target="_hplink">supports</a> the creation of a "pathway to citizenship" for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

  • No Taxes Increases Unless War, National Emergencies

    <strong>What the 2012 Republican platform draft says:</strong> Republicans <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/gop-platform-spoiler-alert-no-exception-rape-incest-abortion-plank" target="_hplink">support</a> a constitutional amendment calling for a super-majority -- 60 votes in the Senate -- for any tax increase, unless in cases of war or national tragedy. <strong>Romney's position:</strong> Romney <a href="http://www.mittromney.com/issues/tax" target="_hplink">wants</a> to cut the marginal tax rate by 20 percent to "stimulate entrepreneurship, job creation, and investment." <strong>Obama's position:</strong> Obama has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/08/02/obama-quotes_n_916304.html?just_reloaded=1" target="_hplink">repeatedly called for</a> a "balanced approach" -- a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases -- in dealing with the nation's fiscal crises.

  • Marriage Only Between Man, Woman

    <strong>What the 2012 Republican platform draft says:</strong> Republicans <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/gop-platform-spoiler-alert-no-exception-rape-incest-abortion-plank" target="_hplink">support</a> the traditional definition of marriage as the "union of one man and one woman." <strong>Romney's position:</strong> Romney <a href="http://www.mittromney.com/issues/values" target="_hplink">wants</a> to "preserve traditional marriage - the joining together of one man and one woman." <strong>Obama's position:</strong> Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/obama-gay-marriage_n_1503245.html" target="_hplink">supports</a> same-sex marriage.

  • Gold Standard Commission

    <strong>What the 2012 Republican platform draft says:</strong> Republicans <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-24/reviving-gold-standard-studied-in-republican-platform.html" target="_hplink">support</a> the creation of a commission to explore whether the United States should return to the gold standard. <strong>Romney's position:</strong> Romney <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-24/reviving-gold-standard-studied-in-republican-platform.html" target="_hplink">has expressed</a> skepticism that Congress would not meddle with the gold standard were it to be implemented. <strong>Obama's position</strong>: Obama has not specifically commented on the gold standard.

  • Medicare Voucher System

    <strong>What the 2012 Republican platform draft says:</strong> Republicans <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79953.html" target="_hplink">support</a> a voucher-like system that provides future seniors with a fixed amount of money to spend on health insurance. <strong>Romney's position:</strong> Romney <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79622.html" target="_hplink">has said</a> he's "very supportive of the Ryan budget plan," which proposes turning Medicare into the voucher-like system advocated for in this year's Republican platform draft. <strong>Obama's position:</strong> Obama wants to <a href="http://medicarenewsgroup.com/news/medicare-faqs/individual-faq?faqId=e7642be4-317f-490e-8dd0-43455d3a674a" target="_hplink">mostly keep</a> Medicare the way it is. He believes Medicare could be reformed by making tweaks to its current pay system and reducing fraud and waste within the program.

  • No Women In Combat

    <strong>What the 2012 Republican platform draft says:</strong> Republicans <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/2012/08/21/new-republican-platform-excludes-women-from-the-front-lines/" target="_hplink">support</a> "women's exemption from direct ground combat units and infantry battalions." <strong>Romney's position:</strong> Romney <a href="http://www.aclulibertywatch.org/candidates/mitt-romney" target="_hplink">has said</a> he believes women have the "capacity to serve in our military in positions of significance and responsibility." <strong>Obama's position:</strong> Under the Obama administration, the Pentagon <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/09/nation/la-na-pentagon-women-20120209" target="_hplink">has loosened</a> limits on women in combat.

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