In the presidential foreign policy debate, Mitt Romney said the U.S. needs a "robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject [the kind of] radical, violent extremism" that fuels terrorism. No argument there. But here in America, we're wrestling with a different kind of fundamentalism -- the attack on abortion rights and the ability of women to make their own reproductive health choices, to control their own bodies and to determine how best to plan their own families. Romney isn't fighting this radical extremism -- he's leading it. The Republican position that abortion must be outlawed, even in cases of rape, incest or threat to the health of the mother, is extremism that is tantamount to violence against women.
Isn't it an act of violence to force a woman to carry to term the child of a rapist who commits an unspeakable act of violence against her -- and then to sentence her (in most states) to a lifetime co-parenting the child with her rapist? Why should the government have the right to intervene in a decision that's so personal, private and life-changing? On top of that, for a woman to even step forward to say she's been raped is an act of courage in our society where the legal process can be humiliating and degrading and often keeps women silent.
But Rep. Paul Ryan doesn't see it that way. Rape isn't an issue in his abortion debate, because the method of conception isn't the point. As we know, Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin said that when a pregnancy is the result of "a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." It's scary to think about how his beliefs and his ignorance of biology guide him as a policy-maker. Then Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock reinforced the fundamentalist line by saying, "When life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." And Ryan led the way a long time ago with his outrageous comment on the floor of the House that you could drive a Mack truck through "the health exception" that would permit an abortion to save a woman's life.
These comments aren't political gaffes -- they are essentially GOP policy statements. Ryan, of course, is the Republican vice-presidential nominee, and his views are enshrined in the party platform adopted at its September convention.
This weekend Newt Gingrich took to the airwaves. "If you listen to what Mourdock actually said, he said what virtually every Catholic and every fundamentalist in the country believes, life begins at conception," Gingrich said on ABC's This Week.
The Republicans are entitled to believe in whatever they want, and the rest of us should respect that. But Gingrich and the GOP extremists want their beliefs to dictate what every woman in this country can do. The Republicans want to roll back the clock and deny women the right to control their own medical decisions, and therefore the arc of their entire lives. That's truly radical.
Vice President Joe Biden explained an alternative approach in his debate with Ryan. He said that his religion defines who he is and that he believes in his church's doctrine on abortion. But he added that he has no business imposing his religious beliefs on others as a lawmaker. That's not an uncommon position for Democrats like Biden, but it's a stark contrast to the extremists who have taken control of the Republican Party.
A record number of Republican Senate candidates want to criminalize abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother's health. Republican-dominated state legislatures have legitimized this crusade by passing a record number of measures to restrict women's reproductive health. In Washington, the U.S. House has voted to restrict abortion or access to contraception and other reproductive health services more than 30 times as the Republicans have also tried to take down expanded preventive health services for women included in the Affordable Care Act.
The GOP is embracing an extremism that rejects truth, scientific knowledge and common sense. The Republicans will brook no compromise in their relentless drive to criminalize abortion and revoke access to birth control and other basic reproductive health services.
So what does this say about Mitt Romney? He's said he'd be a "pro-life president," he'd "immediately" remove funding for Planned Parenthood and he'd be "delighted" to sign a bill banning abortion. He won the GOP nomination by pandering to the radical right-wingers who control the Republican Party, and it's clear that he's going to let them run his show.
As anti-tax fanatic Grover Norquist told conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, "We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go." All the GOP needs, Norquist explained, is "a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States" so he can sign whatever bills extremists in Congress send his way.
Every person who cares about this issue needs to know that if Romney gets elected he will do everything in his power to help the extremist forces within the GOP take away the right of women to make their own health care decisions and obtain the medical services they need.