What the ‘legitimate rape’ fiasco reveals about Paul Ryan’s extremist past

Todd Akin’s insensitive remarks regarding “legitimate rape” could provide the Romney ticket with a good smokescreen.

Handout image of U.S. Congressman Todd Akin
After the "legitimate rape" furor, many Republicans called on Todd Akin to withdraw from the Senate race [REUTERS]

Missouri Representative and Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin is under steady fire for outrageous comments he made in an August 19 interview in which he claimed that women who are victims of what he called “legitimate rape” don’t usually become pregnant – because “the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down”. At issue was the question of whether a woman who has been raped should be entitled to choose abortion.

Sensibly enough, after his remarks went viral on the internet, many mainstream GOP leaders have called for Akin’s resignation and for his withdrawal from the Senate race. The comments upset many people across the country and across political lines, a scandal which in turn could really damage Akin’s campaign. Inside sources reveal that his campaign is preparing an official withdrawal and that the RNC has pulled media dollars from his race. 

But the furor reveals where a few more paradoxes lie – and smoke out GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan as an anti-abortion extremist. GOP Presidential hopeful Governor Mitt Romney and his Vice Presidential pick, Paul Ryan, have stated, in reaction to the Akin firestorm, that they BOTH support abortion rights for rape victims. But that assertion is not –  in Ryan’s case, even loosely – true.

 Rape comment causes rage in the US

While this position is indeed consistent with Romney’s stance on abortion, it does not align at all with Paul Ryan’s previous positions on this hot-button issue. Paul Ryan’s previous stance has been that he believes that a woman should have access to a legal abortion only in cases in which the mother’s life is at risk. Ryan – before he was a VP candidate in a national spotlight – went further, and personally sponsored a fetal personhood bill. Ryan’s bill would criminalise abortion with NO exceptions for rape or incest whatsoever. Even more damning is the fact that Ryan co-sponsored the “No Tax Payer Funding For Abortion Act” – a bill that narrowed the definition of rape, thus making it more difficult for a woman who has been raped to secure an abortion. 

With many conservatives – including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan – now loudly distancing themselves from Akin, the furor is actually providing the GOP Presidential ticket with a handy smokescreen for the VP pick’s past positions on abortion rights – positions that would paint him as radical to many mainstream women voters in a national election.  

We have seen this smokescreen effect before – a telegenic right-wing figure plays all the “moderate” cards to reassure middle-of-the-road voters – especially that crucial women’s vote in those crucial battleground states – but in fact his real background and real former positions show that the pol’s agenda and constituency is far more extreme than these moderates want to support. Moderate women voters would do well to remember that George Bush famously said “Good people can disagree” – during the general election about the abortion issue, and then, once elected, supported judges and congresspeople who oversaw the biggest rollback of abortion rights in a decade.

Autumn Smith is a political activist from Michigan. Her activism has targeted key issues including the Michigan Enbridge Oil Spill, LGBT issues, HIV education, anti-bullying, reproductive rights, Occupy Movement and petitioning elected officials for recall.

A version of this article first appeared on DailyCloudt.com