Todd Akin is Not Alone

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 21 2012 9:43 AM

Todd Akin is Not Alone

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WASHINGTON - JANUARY 22: A pro-life activist holds a sign as he participates in the annual 'March for Life' event January 22, 2009 in Washington, DC. The event was to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court abortion ruling. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

National Review's house editorial on Akingate made a cynical point, and made it rather poorly.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

For the very same reason this issue offers Democrats a political opportunity, however, it is only a theoretical one: No state is going to ban abortion in the case of rape even if Roe v. Wade is overruled — and even if Akin were elected to the Senate. Everyone knows this.
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Not everyone! In Louisiana, a "trigger law" signed by the state's last Democratic governor would ban all abortions in the state if Roe v. Wade was overruled. In North Dakota, a "personhood" law gives human rights to "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens." In Virginia this year, a new "personhood" bill sailed through the Republican House of Delegates -- it got gummed up in the Senate, but that took some doing.

Several states have already passed absolute bans on abortion after 20 weeks, well before viability, without exceptions for rape and incest, and the stated intent is to keep moving that line closer and closer to fertilization. Even if voters rejected “personhood” amendments in Colorado and Mississippi, that hasn’t stopped the movement from trying again and again, down to spreading falsehoods that common forms of birth control are tantamount to abortion.

I needled a couple of National Review writers about this point yesterday (on Twitter, of course). Ramesh Ponnuru, one of the best writers in the country on life issues, was skeptical that the bans could "succeed" and be "read in court as barring abortions in cases of rape." I'm not as sure. Imagine that it's 2015, and Supreme Court Justice Ted Cruz has joined a 5-4 majority striking down Roe. How soon are you going to get majorities in Louisiana and North Dakota to undo their abortion bans? Are we betting on more liberal lower courts to do it for them?

Let's take Reince Priebus, Scott Brown, et al at their words. They vehemently disagree with Todd Akin's theories about rape, vaginal secretions, etc. But they know that Akin-alikes are passing abortion bans in the states. They should know -- because this stuff isn't hard to find -- that sometimes, the bases for these bans are junk science, repeated widely on the radio. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they ignore that and collect the votes of the pro-life base. In office, at the federal level, they make no serious moves to pass the "Human Life Amendment" or personhood bills or the other things they've promised. It's all a bit patronizing.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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