Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan sat down this morning with Jon Delano of KDKA in Pittsburgh, offering his first detailed remarks since Todd Akin’s odious comments over the weekend on rape. What was striking about Ryan’s comments was the extent to which they were at odds with his own record.
For those who can’t watch clips online, Ryan said Akin’s comments were “outrageous” and “over the pail.” Though I’m not familiar with this “pail” idiom, in context, it seems safe to say Ryan was expressing disagreement with Akin. So far, so good. [Update: In comments, Katami Detroit suggests he was probably trying to say, “Beyond the pale,” which would make sense.]
But note how the right-wing congressman struggles to defend his own record. Ryan said in the interview, “Rape is rape. Period. End of story.” And while that may sound heartening, Ryan, just a year ago, co-sponsored legislation – with Todd Akin – that would have redefined “rape” for the purposes of Medicaid funding. In Ryan’s proposal, victims of “forcible rape” would receive protections, but victims of other, undefined kinds of rape would not.
Asked to defend his own legislation, Ryan refused. “Rape is rape. Rape is rape, period. End of story,” he said. When the reporters pressed further, asking, “So that forcible rape language meant nothing to you at the time?” The vice presidential hopeful again added, “Rape is rape and there’s no splitting hairs over rape.”
But therein lies the point: for Paul Ryan, Todd Akin, and their far-right colleagues, there is splitting hairs over rape, and it’s not the end of the story. Under the legislation Ryan pushed, if a 13-year-old girl who was impregnated by a 24-year-old man would not be able to use Medicaid funds to terminate the pregnancy, unless she could prove she’d been “forcibly” raped.
If “there’s no splitting hairs over rape,” why did Paul Ryan help champion legislation that would have split hairs over rape?
As for Ryan’s stated position that the government should force women to take their pregnancy to term if they are impregnated by a rapist, the Republican congressman seemed to concede that his position has been superseded. “Well, look, I’m proud of my pro-life record. And I stand by my pro-life record in Congress. It’s something I’m proud of,” Ryan said. “But Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket and Mitt Romney will be president and he will set the policy of the Romney administration.”
The reporter also asked about contraception, prompting Ryan to say, “Nobody is proposing to deny birth control to anybody.”
While that’s an encouraging sentiment, Ryan supports destroying the Affordable Care Act, which will necessarily mean less access to affordable contraception for many Americans, and he co-sponsored (with Akin) a federal “Personhood” measure that would ban abortion, in-vitro fertilization, and some contraceptives.