The platform committee for next week’s Republican National Convention today approved a strict anti-abortion plank that prompted a rebuke from Senator Scott Brown as GOP candidates try to contain fallout from Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comment about rape and abortion.
Brown, a Massachusetts Republican locked in a close reelection campaign with Democrat Elizabeth Warren and eager to demonstrate his political independence, sent a letter to party Chairman Reince Priebus urging a more accommodating position.
“I believe this is a mistake because it fails to recognize the views of pro-choice Republicans like myself,” the senator wrote to Priebus. “Even while I am pro-choice, I respect those who have a different opinion on this very difficult and sensitive issue. Our party platform should make the same concession to those of us who believe in a woman’s right to choose.”
Warren warned anew today that Brown’s reelection could turn the Senate over to Republicans who oppose abortion rights, seek to defund Planned Parenthood, and want to repeal President Obama’s health care law.
“He’s trying to advance a group that would have a profound effect on women,” Warren said during an event at the Omni Parker House on Beacon Hill. “Republicans are laying out their larger agenda and women must pay attention.”
The 110-member platform panel, meeting today in Tampa, Fla., passed a so-called Human Life Amendment that calls for a ban on abortion, without mention of the more common exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” said platform language obtained by CNN. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
It is similar to language included in the GOP platform in both 2004 and 2008 but it has become even more politically loaded since Akin, a US House member from Missouri, was criticized for the answer he gave when asked if abortion were legitimate in cases of rape.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” Akin said during a television interview aired on Sunday.
The differentiation between forms of rape prompted a swift rebuke not just from his Democratic opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill, but presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan. Romney initially urged Akin to spend 24 hours reconsidering his continued candidacy.
In a statement today, Romney said he now agreed with former Missouri Senators John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth, and Jim Talent that Akin should quit the race.
“As I said [Monday], Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race,” Romney said.
Brown was among the first Republicans to call for Akin to drop out of the race, doing so in a statement on Monday morning.
Brown supports abortion rights, while Romney and Ryan oppose them. Romney would make an exception for rape and incest, but Ryan would do so only when the health of a mother would be jeopardized by a continued pregnancy.
The reelection committee for Obama, an abortion rights supporter, pounced on the platform vote.
“Several Romney supporters and advisers were present and stood silently while this vote took place. This should come as no surprise, as Mitt Romney supported this exact language in the 2004 and 2008 Republican platforms and Paul Ryan fought to ban abortion even in cases of rape,” Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.
“Women across this country should take note of the Republican Party’s position, and not trust any of the false promises made by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on the campaign trail,” Smith added.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, chairman of the RNC’s platform committee and an abortion opponent, thanked the committee for “affirming our respect for human life” today before moving onto other platform issues.
The platform will come up for a vote of the convention delegates on Monday.