THE BLOG
11/02/2012 12:41 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

When Pro-Life Isn't

When is pro-life... not?

Many of us, extreme right-wing Republicans included, can imagine that in cases where the life of the mother is in physical jeopardy, an abortion may be necessary. But what about when it's the emotional, psychological or mental life of the mother in jeopardy? What about when, after birth, it's the life of the child in jeopardy?

Among the many GOP references to rape over the past several months of this election season comes the latest and dumbest, according to some, by Republican Congressional candidate John Koster.

"But the rape thing -- you know, I know a woman who was raped and kept the child, gave it up for adoption and she doesn't regret it," Koster states. Going on, he adds,

On the rape thing, it's like, how does putting more violence onto a women's body and taking the life of an innocent child that's a consequence of this crime -- how does that make it better? You know what I mean?

Actually, Mr. Koster, I haven't the slightest idea what you mean. Dismissing the terrifying, horrible, life-changing event that happens to a woman as "that rape thing" earns you no understanding, much less respect, from me. And I can bet I'm not alone in that feeling.

Koster is only one of several GOP males to dismiss "that rape thing" in the past several months. I wrote about many of them in my last piece (link), but to remind you, they include a Wisconsin State Representative who believes "some girls rape so easy" and an Indiana Republican Senate candidate who thinks pregnancy from rape is simply something that "God intended."

Conservative Republicans often like to take what they think is the moral high ground on this issue, even having assigned the rhetoric to the position "pro-life". But here's what I'd like to know: how can conservative Republicans claim to be pro-life when their purported concern for the individual life ends immediately at birth? If the purpose of being pro-life is only to ensure a child is born -- and doesn't ensure the child is actually cared for -- can it truly be called pro-life at all? Or is it better called "pro-full term pregnancy"? Because, let's be real, that's exactly what it is.

Along with most often opposing a woman's right to choose, and thereby forcing birth at any cost, the Republican party also most often opposes programs that would ensure children born in non-ideal circumstances are given opportunities to thrive: Paul Ryan alone would cut assistance to families in need, day care, affordable health care and food stamps.

And that's only the life of the child. What about the life of the mother? In a situation like rape or incest, doesn't forcing someone to give birth to their abuser's child underscore the point that who they are and what they want doesn't matter? Aren't we then sending the message to those victims that their needs fall second to their tormentors'?

We are already beginning to send that that message to women when we allow male GOP candidates to get away with calling it "that rape thing." It's already an issue not just about pro-birth, but about quality of life. Imagine a situation in which a woman is raped, forced to bring the pregnancy to full-term and perhaps chooses to keep the child. In 31 out of 50 states, rapists can now sue to acquire custody and visitation rights. Can we truly say that forcing a child to visit their mother's rapist in jail is "pro-life"?

And if conservative Republicans are really as "pro-life" as they claim to be, then shouldn't the goal be to try and help women before they get put in the situation of an unwanted pregancy? Logically, yes, but we've learned by now that the Romney-Ryan ticket doesn't necessarily run on logic. A Romney-Ryan administration would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which, contrary to popular conservative belief, doesn't operate only to terminate pregnancies. Rather, Planned Parenthood serves to educate men and women about family planning and sexually transmitted infections and provides critical life-saving care to women including breast exams and Pap tests for cancer detection. Conservative Republicans, however, don't seem to care. It's not "pro-life" if in one instance you're trying to end abortions and in another are trying to cut important medical care for women.

A Romney-Ryan administration would also cut funding for education, in the form of raising interest on student loans and cutting Pell grants. Can it be called "pro-life" when you don't seemed concerned with bettering the quality of life for millions of Americans, after birth?

The Republican nominees claim to be "pro-life" but isn't it time that we all -- conservatives included -- start to consider whether "pro-life" actually means "anti-woman" or "anti-choice" or simply "pro-birth"? In reality, the best "pro-life" argument is actually to be pro-choice: giving women autonomy over their own bodies and health care decisions, while striving to make life better for all Americans, including the ones already outside the womb.