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Republican drafters of their party’s 2012 platform reaffirmed support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion that would allow no exception for terminating pregnancies caused by rape.
Concluding two days of deliberations in Tampa yesterday, the platform committee completed a 60-page draft of political positions and principles that will be submitted for adoption when the Republican National Convention begins Aug. 27 in the Florida city.
Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, the panel’s chairman, and other leaders sought to emphasize the document’s focus on proposals to promote economic growth as the party dealt with a political storm stirred by a comment about rape by the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
The draft “reflects the views of the grassroots leaders” of the party and “affirms our belief in traditional values, but spends an enormous amount of time and energy on how to get the greatest country on Earth out of debt and back to work,” McDonnell told reporters after the Committee on Resolutions completed the platform draft.
The party’s advocacy of a blanket ban on abortion, while not new, gained attention in the wake of the Aug. 19 comment by Todd Akin, the Republican running against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in Missouri’s Senate race, that “legitimate rape” rarely leads to pregnancy. Akin, a U.S. House member who has since apologized for the remark, made it as he argued that abortion shouldn’t be allowed in cases of rape.
Akin has ignored calls from Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and other party leaders that he end his Senate candidacy.
McDonnell said yesterday that “any indication other than we should strongly support the laws that protect women from violence are just absolutely wrong.” He defended the wording of the platform language on abortion, saying that “while we affirm our support for human life,” the “specific policies” of how the ban would apply “ought to be left to the states.”
With no floor debate, the panel adopted language contained in the 2004 and 2008 Republican platforms that said an “unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life that cannot be infringed.”
Romney, a one-time advocate of abortion rights, has stressed his opposition to it in recent comments. Still, the platform is somewhat at odds with his view. In a “pro-life pledge” posted last year on the National Review magazine’s website, he wrote that “I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.”
Akin’s name was invoked by a delegate during yesterday’s debate before the platform panel approved a provision advocating a ban on drugs that terminate pregnancies, such as RU-486.
Alabama delegate Jacqueline Curtiss sought -- and received -- reassurance that the provision wouldn’t apply to “morning-after” pills given to rape victims. Curtiss said she raised the concern “in light of the recent comments by Congressman Todd Akin and in an attempt to reaffirm to the American people the party’s sensitivity the subject of rape.”
The platform committee did add several new abortion provisions, including one that would ban government subsidies for employer-sponsored health insurance that offers abortion services.
The panel reiterated the Republican Party position that abstinence is the only type of “family planning” education that should be funded by the government for teenagers.
Over the objection of some of its members, the panel also backed a provision requiring parental approval of medical care for children and teenagers for non-life threatening illnesses.
“It’s time that parents be in the driver’s seat” in “the health-care decisions of their children,” said Idaho delegate Gayann DeMordaunt.
Hawaii delegate Philip Hellreich, a physician, said the parental-approval provision would discourage teenagers from seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
“It would be horrible if physicians were denied the ability to treat those kinds of patients,” Hellreich said.
In its debates, the panel focused on measures to reduce the size, scope and cost of the federal government and to promote tax simplification. The proposed platform advocates a balanced-budget constitutional amendment and a requirement that Congress could only raise taxes with super majorities of the House and Senate, except in times of war or national emergency.
More delegates “are really concerned about our budgets and about spending” and entitlement programs such as Medicare, with little “desire to weigh in deeply on these social issues when you’ve got literally the $16 trillion debt hanging over” the country, said Russ Walker, an Oregon delegate affiliated with the anti-tax Tea Party movement.
“There’s the old saying, which is a girl is less likely to have an abortion if she feels like she can raise a child,” Walker said in an interview.
Other planks would require an annual audit of the Federal Reserve and call for creation of a commission to “consider the feasibility” of returning the U.S. dollar to the gold standard “to set a fixed value” for the currency. Romney repeated yesterday his backing for an audit of the Fed as the platform panel began its deliberations.
The platform endorsed revamping Medicare, a proposal pushed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman Romney tapped to be his vice-presidential running mate.
“While retaining the option of Medicare in competition with private plans” the platform called for “transition to a premium-support model for Medicare,” which would give recipients an income-adjusted subsidy to buy insurance.
Medicare should “change from an unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model” to the “defined contribution model,” the platform draft said. And a “more realistic” eligibility age than the current standard of 65 should be set to reflect “today’s longer life span,” the document said.
The draft version doesn’t directly advocate reviving the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy toward homosexuals in the military abandoned by Obama after almost two decades. The committee approved language saying the party rejects “the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness.”
The 2008 platform referred to “the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.”
The platform committee rejected a motion to recognize civil unions for gay couples.
The Democratic Party’s 2012 proposed platform was amended on Aug. 11 to include a plank supporting same-sex marriage.
To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Tampa, Florida at firstname.lastname@example.org
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