KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Views On Akin And Abortion: Both Parties Energized By Candidate’s Remarks On Rape, But Does It Clarify Abortion Debate?

Commentators from the left and right examine the controversy.

The Washington Post: On Abortion, A Matter Of Exception
There's something off -- something a bit cowardly, actually -- about the positions of both parties in the abortion debate refueled by the asinine remarks of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.). Akin's comments have left Republicans scrambling to avoid the politically unpalatable implications of the anti-abortion views central to their party. Democrats, meanwhile, are delighted to focus on a tiny subset of abortion exceptions -- even as they shy away from standing up for the broader principle that women get to decide whether to continue an unwanted pregnancy, no matter how it happened (Ruth Marcus, 8/22).

The New York Times: Opinionator: Were Todd Akin's Comments So Outrageous?
Republicans and Democrats expressed outrage after Todd Akin, the G.O.P. Senate candidate in Missouri, said he opposed all abortions, even after rape, because in cases of "legitimate rape," women rarely get pregnant. But Akin's position is not unusual; many opponents of abortion want a ban without exceptions. A draft of the Republican platform essentially calls for that. An early version of a House bill banning federal money for abortions, co-sponsored by the Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, refined the rape exception so it would deal only with "forcible rape" (8/22).

Politico: Obama, The Abortion Extremist
If NARAL has a man of the year award, it should go to Todd Akin. Not only did the newly minted Missouri Senate candidate express his position on abortion in the most discrediting way possible, he threatens Republican hopes to take the Senate. ... Predictably, the Akin flap has created a feeding frenzy. ... As a general matter, Todd Akin's position on the issue is closer to the American mainstream than Obama's. The public doesn't agree with Akin on the hardest cases, but as my National Review colleague Ramesh Ponnuru points about, most people oppose most abortions. In a Gallup survey in 2011, 61 percent of men said that abortion should be legal in few or no circumstances, and 60 percent of women said the same (Rich Lowry, 8/23).

The Washington Post: Paul Ryan's 'Legitimate Problem'
Ryan is surely aching to talk about something other than Akin. But the outrage set off by the Republicans' Senate nominee in Missouri has consumed the political world. It has been particularly harmful to Ryan, who has served for more than a decade with Akin, recently hailing him as "a great asset" on Ryan's budget committee and an example of "exactly the kind of leadership America needs." More problematic in this situation: Ryan has the same antiabortion position as Akin -- no exceptions -- and some of the nearly 40 abortion bills he has co-sponsored have provided no exemption for rape victims (Dana Milbank, 8/22).

The New York Times: The Sexual Spirit Of '76
In colonial America, conventional wisdom held that women could not get pregnant unless they enjoyed the sex. People, who would have thought I'd have an opportunity to bring up this factoid right in the middle of a presidential race? Thank you, Representative Todd Akin of Missouri! Without you, we might have been condemned to spend today reinvestigating the Congressional Budget Office Medicare cost projections (Gail Collins, 8/22). 

Los Angeles Times: Todd Akin's Remarks On Rape May Help Clarify The Abortion Debate
Like any sentient person, I was appalled by Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin's comments about "legitimate rape." ... But unlike the many people proclaiming their outrage on Facebook and Twitter, I'm actually grateful to Akin. And not, as many liberals have sneeringly gloated, because he has effectively dug his entire party into a hole that it might need a NASA-built escape capsule to get out of. I'm grateful to Akin because he has forced those who feel strongly about abortion to face the truth: When it comes to abortion, you're either in or you're out. For all the talk about exceptions for rape and incest, for all the hand-wringing about what constitutes "legitimate" sexual violence and whether pregnancy can result from rape, the real issue has nothing to do with rape. The real issue is whether abortion should be legal or illegal (Meghan Daum, 8/23).

The New York Times: In Texas, Don't Even Mention Abortion
The Republican-controlled State Legislature in Texas and Gov. Rick Perry are perfectly willing to endanger the general health and welfare of low-income women to further their agenda of eroding abortion rights. And, now, a federal appeals court has given them a green light to do that, at least temporarily (8/22).

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