If you thought Missouri Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin was out of line when he said women were unlikely to get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” wait until you hear what presumptive vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has to say on the subject.
In an interview, Ryan said that he agreed with other Missouri Republicans that Akin should drop out of the senate race for the good of conservatism and the good of the party, but he also admitted he did not believe in abortion under any circumstances – including rape or incest.
“The method of conception doesn’t change the meaning of life,” Ryan said.
There’s something to be said, one may suppose, for consistency on an issue, but one might question whether the Wisconsin congressman’s remarks were really any less insensitive than Akin’s.
Ryan did go on to note, however, that he was on the Romney-Ryan ticket and that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s policy did include exceptions for rape and incest and that by being on the ticket, that would be the policy in place.
It’s also clear, however, that he doesn’t agree with that policy.
It’s also clear to most people that rape is a difficult topic to discuss. It can be considered crass and insensitive to suggest that the potential life is worth less if the pregnancy was the result of rape. But to indicate support for making a victim endure the pain of carrying a pregnancy to term in the wake of such a circumstance is equally difficult to justify.
That is why a woman’s right to choose, without penalty by the government, has become a third rail in politics—especially for men running for office. There are just some things only those who are most directly affected by the consequences can decide.
To be sure, there are women who believe life begins at conception and that women who become pregnant by rape or incest are just as responsible for bringing that pregnancy to term as women who choose to become pregnant or accidentally become pregnant under routine circumstances.
Some of those women have actually had experience with either carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term or making the decision to abort and later regretting it.
The point, though, is that they made the decision. Whether they are convinced in the rightness of it or later came to rue it, it was still their decision to make.
We can get tangled up in the arguments about whether anyone can actually believe there is such a thing as “legitimate rape” or whether Ryan made things no better by euphemistically talking about “the method of conception,” but the bottom line is that these men are suggesting that the decisions should be made for people who should be allowed to make their own decisions.
It is right to make sure people are informed of possible risk. It is right to provide them with options. You even have the right to tell them you disagree with their decision.
What isn’t right is to not let them decide.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”