Democrats should thank Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana for giving voters a chance to be reminded that “severely conservative” Mitt Romney hasn’t gone anywhere despite efforts to soften his rhetoric over the last couple of weeks in order to appeal to moderate general election voters.
Mourdock’s comment that he doesn’t support exceptions for women to access the legal procedure of abortion in the case of rape because, “life is a gift from God, that I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen,” also serve as yet another reminder the war on women is not a figment of our imagination.
What the GOP appears unable to understand is that while a majority of Americans, regardless of political party, likely agree that life is a gift; most of us don’t agree that anyone—certainly not the government bureaucrats Republicans rail against—should have the right to force a woman to carry her rapist’s baby. Approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the United States, and on average, 24 people a minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime, and domestic abuse continues to be the most underreported violent crime in America, with only an estimated one-third of women who are raped or injured receiving medical care for their injuries.
While men rant about not wanting government up in their business, they can’t seem to get out of a woman’s. Consider the tremendous courage it takes to survive the trauma of being raped, of reporting it to the police while knowing the risk of not being believed (was it a forcible rape?), or treated like you somehow brought this on yourself. A woman then faces being defiled again by having her most basic right to make decisions about her own body supplanted by a legislative body comprised of mostly men. If she lives in one of the 31 states that allow the rapist to have parental rights, her rapist will have ongoing access to her.
Now consider the GOP message to women in America: if you are raped “legitimately” or “forcibly” and you get pregnant, you should have a way to “shut that thing down” if it wasn’t “forcible,” and if you want to exercise your right to have an abortion, you must undergo a vaginal probe. As Republicans in state legislatures across America have pointed out, better be careful those sneaky womenfolk don’t try to use rape as a “loophole” just to get an abortion.
According to Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL) we don’t really even need an exception for life of the mother (forget about her health), despite medical evidence to the contrary, because thanks to modern medicine a woman’s life is never endangered by her pregnancy. If you’re a woman in United States illegally or are Native American living on tribal lands, you also can’t count on protection from the Violence Against Women Act because Republicans in Congress blocked it, sending the signal that it’s OK to beat certain women.
Shamefully, Mitt Romney released a mealy-mouthed statement through his spokeswoman saying that he “doesn’t agree with the comments” of Mourdock and yet refuses to ask the candidate’s campaign to take down the endorsement TV the Republican presidential nominee appears in. But we already knew that Romney was not someone who could be trusted to stand up for women and the way we live our lives in the 21st century. Just as he was unwilling to stand up to Rush Limbaugh when he called Sandra Fluke a slut. Just as he didn’t have the courage to admit he doesn’t support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act or other legislative measures designed to even the economic scales for women during the town hall debate with President Obama. Instead, we heard about binders full of women.
We know Romney can’t afford alienating any voters in Indiana, a state he desperately needs; and as he says in the endorsement video if he wins he also needs Mourdock as a 51st vote in the Senate for the Romney-Ryan agenda. But as we near election day, women—who are 51% of the population and 55% of all voters—should remember that the 51st vote which repeals the Affordable Care Act, also means that being raped, having a baby, and just being a woman will again be considered pre-existing conditions.