Joseph Cotto, 4/28/2015 [Archive]

Will GOP Learn a 'Legitimate Rape' Lesson?

By Joseph Cotto

We all remember Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments, so there is little point in rehashing them. The question is, has the Republican Party cleaned up his mess?

Almost three years on, it doesn't seem so. Even the slightest hint of defending the Missouri congressman's incomprehensible screed results in public condemnation, and rightfully so. At the same time, scores of reliable GOP voters agree with his mission to ban pregnancy termination procedures; even in cases of rape and incest.

In more than a few states, Republican candidates cannot win a primary without support from the hardcore 'pro-life' camp.

Keeping this in mind, what can the GOP do?

Ceasing to fund Akin's campaign almost immediately was an excellent move. Also, prominent center-right pundits and politicians not only voicing disapproval for, but asking Akin to drop out minimized damage to the national ticket.

While this sad episode might not have been the decisive factor in Mitt Romney's defeat, it most definitely brought the anti-abortion movement to a new low. This cost it some of the legitimacy earned over the last several decades, but for true believers in the "pro-life" cause, public opinion means little if anything.

Whether or not most of my fellow Republicans care to admit the obvious, a golden opportunity was been presented to us.

For the first time in decades, many people were seriously questioning the GOP's platform. Shamefully, it features a tenet which calls for a total ban on abortion practices. Just after Akin's implosion, the Republican National Committee approved a renewed version of said plank for a full vote the next week.

Of course, this plea was approved as it had been in past years. However, during subsequent days, weeks, and months, the antiabortion movement's hardline qualities seriously came into question. Specifically in terms of banning the victims of sexual abuse from discontinuing their pregnancies, it had much to answer for.

Ultimately, Election Night 2012 was a triumph for pro-choice forces. It is unfortunate that virtually all of these were registered Democrats.

Todd Aiken's comments highlighted the combination of scientific ignorance and social totalitarianism which has become a hallmark of anti-abortion politics. His statements brought solid substantiation for many of the Democrats' claims that the GOP is engaged in a philosophical war on women's reproductive rights.

If the anti-abortion movement were to lose a fair amount of credibility, though, then the Republican hierarchy would surely discard it like yesterday's newspaper. The only reason, from my estimation, that the former has had such a long parasitic relationship with the latter is its ability to provide a reliable bloc of single-issue voters.

Should the social and financial costs of maintaining this bloc exceed its practical value, then that will be that. While Akin's meltdown was not the impetus for a future in which this became a reality, we can still learn tremendously from it.

Hopefully aspirants for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination will write that down.

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Copyright 2015 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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