With every addition to a presidential race comes a replenishment of the abortion debate, and the addition of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to the GOP ticket is no exception. I would normally try to avoid bringing it up myself, but Ryan’s position on abortion is one that must be addressed, if only as a corrective for those who might aim to hold a meaningful White House position (yeah, I went there), or if he is genuinely worried about his standing with women. Because if he doesn’t rethink two of the bills he co-sponsored relating to abortion, it might not get much better.
The first bill would define human life as beginning at the moment of fertilization, rather than the moment of conception, which in my opinion is a shaky enough definition as it is. The second . . . well, I’ll just pull the quote for you:
Another would let hospitals decline to perform abortions, based on religious conviction, even if the life of the pregnant woman is at stake.
You know, because he’s pro-life and all.
In the long run, this probably won’t mean more than a few extra million in donations from the usual pro-life suspects. Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), who will have actual policy-making authority – unless the Senate is deadlocked 50-50, in which case Ryan, as president of the Senate, could cast a deciding vote – believes in exceptions not only for risks to the mother’s life, but in the cases of rape and incest. Their campaign spokespeople have been responding to attacks on his position by reminding voters how bad President Obama’s economic policies have been for women, which is a pretty good tactic. That’s how we can say “consistent” and “Romney” in the same sentence.
But you can bet Ryan isn’t the only office-holder who believes this stuff. A federal definition of human life, without any evident consultation with anyone who has ever studied medicine or biology, is as far from “limited government” as you can get. Those same people who have studied medicine will remind you that every doctor swears to do no harm; declining to perform an abortion that could save the mother’s life, however rare such an event is, is doing her harm. If you’re not willing to check your personal beliefs at the ER door, don’t be a doctor.
Nobody needs to paint Ryan’s positions as a war on women. They’re a war on the act of leaving medical decisions to the professionals – I don’t define people who refuse to perform medical procedures on religious or other non-medical grounds as “professionals” – and the patients. And they want this guy and people like him to reform Medicare? His approach doesn’t bode well for that end.