“New Life” Trumps “Existing Life” in the Modern Republican Party

“I believe that if you have to choose between new life and existing life, you should choose new life. The person who has had an opportunity to live at least has been given that gift by God and should make way for new life on earth.”

These are the words of the late Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the conservative Heritage Foundation and a driving force behind the creation of the movement we know today as the Religious Right. As the above quote implies, Weyrich had no patience for those in anti-choice circles who advocated for an abortion exception when the life of the pregnant woman was threatened.

This sentiment, voiced by Weyrich in 1984, has never entirely disappeared from some sectors of the anti-choice movement, though for quite some time, it was not a position widely spoken of. This is hardly surprising given that a huge majority of Americans support access to abortion in life-threatening situations.   

However, the Republican Party’s official platform is one place where the absolute ban on any exceptions, including one to save a woman’s life, is retained. John McCain, as the presidential candidate in 2008, tried to change this to include exceptions for rape, incest and threats to a woman’s life, but was unsuccessful. The 2012 Platform just adopted by Republicans retains identical language as previous ones.

Yet another place where the Weyrich legacy of indifference to real women’s lives has recently reappeared is the Orwellian-named “Protect Life Act,” (H.R.358) passed by Congress in fall 2011 by a vote of 251-172, including 15 Democrats who voted with the majority. This bill, among other things, stipulates that hospitals may “exercise their conscience” and refuse abortions to women in life-threatening conditions. Till the Akin scandal, politicians could vote for such a jaw-dropping bill, hoping that no one but their adamantly pro-life constituents-–ready to “score” each abortion-related vote in Congress–would notice. And those legislators who actually don’t relish the thought of women dying in hospital corridors while family members plead and hospital staff argue, could rest easy that a Democratic-controlled Senate, let alone President Obama, would never let such legislation go forward.

But the Akin outburst has changed all this. The extremist positions taken by anti-choice  politicians are now finally becoming more visible to a larger public. Akin’s loony claim that “legitimate rape” can’t lead to pregnancy may not be widely shared, but refusal to allow abortion in cases of rape and incest has in fact become the new normal for those courting anti-choice votes, a position that expanded considerably when Sarah Palin entered the national stage in 2008. But Palin herself is on record as accepting abortions in the case of threats to a woman’s life. That 251 legislators were willing to vote for the “Protect Life Act” (or, as known in prochoice circles, as the “Let Women Die” act) suggests that the Weyrich position of absolutism has, after 25 years, finally triumphed.

This newfound attention to what politicians in thrall to the antiabortion movement have done poses obvious problems for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. With respect to the latter, the American people are now learning that this leading light of economic conservativism also voted for H.R. 358 and numerous other abortion provisions, including the bill containing the  notorious “forcible rape” language. And, of course, Romney and Ryan on a party platform that allows no exceptions to save the life of a pregnant woman.

To be sure, in normal times, the actual details of a party platform would not draw much attention. Nor would the minutiae of the numerous bills a vice-presidential candidate voted on while in Congress. But thanks to Todd Akin, these are not normal times. The attention that Akin’s remarks have brought to positions shared so broadly by others in his party, including the vice-presidential candidate, has vindicated those abortion rights supporters who have often been accused, even by sympathizers, of exaggeration and “shrillness” in their warnings of what anti-choice politicians were capable. Hopefully many Americans will now ponder what will become of their loved ones, or themselves, in a country where the Republican Party platform is made real by true believers.

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  • freetobe

    So its ok to let a woman die so that the potential fetus may or may not survive against the woman’s will but its not ok to kill grandma or grandpa as in “death panels” via the GOP yells?  In other words someone who is begging to die from extrme pain and knows their end is in sight somewhere and they only want to die in dignity is not alright. No you must suffer first? Ok I got that.

    I used to be all for Darwinism as  I do not care for the human race much and figured this would be a quick way to reduce the population and solve some of the environmental issues until I was called out  by many saying” you can’t do that. You can’t just let people die”. I thought  about everything that they said and did some reading  and realized they were right. The technology and medicine is there to save people how can I deny them that right? That would be murder. I am not a murderer so therefore I can longer beleive in darwinism.

    I suggest these people do some reading start with The Cancer Ward by Tolstoy  because what they are proposing is pre-meditated murder and this not only makes them look really bad and evil but it also is just more outstanding hypocrisy!

    I also am beggining to question the other half of the women out there who are voting for Romney. I noticed that after all this horrible talk of rape be it forcible or legitimate that the polls say that Romney is closing in on Obama. There is something seriously wrong with this. Even the Latino’s and the Black people know when they are hated. Why don’t these women see the hatred from these evil men towards them too? Why will they not stand up for their sisters? Would they want to see their daughters die from a an ectopic pregnancy because the law of the land said they could not save her? WAKE UP WOMEN this is real, this is happening to all of us if we don’t vote these monsters out of the government and never let them back in They are Never going to give up on controlling women totally and completely. It is an all out life long battle for all of us now. FIGHT!

  • peninad

    All well and good for these fundamentalist Christians and Catholics…how about other religions?

    Guess what, the Jewish religion MANDATES that the life of the mother (an actual life) takes precedence over that of an unborn potential life, EVEN INTO LABOR.  So, up until the point that the baby is out and takes a breath, if the mother’s life or health is in jeapardy, it is incumbent to save the mother first, even if it means a fetotomy.


  • arachne646

    Believe it or not, it’s a common belief among right-wing Christians that it’s scientifically almost impossible to get pregnant by being raped, because if you really are being assaulted and terrified (if you’re being raped, you’re facing death or trying to find a way out), your body’s stress hormones, which they don’t specify and which no one has managed to find, prevent conception.


    So the Morning After Pill, which goes with rape kits and STD treatment, isn’t needed at all. Who knew? All those women who got pregnant from sexual assault, when it included unprotected penis/vagina intercourse, just weren’t stressed as much when they were beaten, threatened with deadly weapons, and knew they were going to die. Evolution didn’t select humans to conceive only when men were nice to women Mr. Akin. Wives and slaves and concubines raped legally in the Old Testament conceived and bore children. Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are having the babies of the men who rape them as an act of war as I type this, and as you read it.

  • thalwen

    What the hell is wrong with these people? Do they not have female relatives? Would they support the government passing legislation that would mandate the death of their own mother or sister? Would they force their daughter to continue a rape pregnancy to term? I don’t think they even understand or carer that in the majority of cases, the killing of the fetus-bearing vessel would also kill their precious unborn baybee. They really need to stop being called pro-life, there is nothing pro-life about any of their positions.

  • crowepps
  • jennifer-starr

    The article by Willke states the following : 

    Assault rape pregnancies are extremely rare. 

    Assault rapes?  Really?  Aren’t ALL rapes assault?  Apparently not, according to professional rape apologists like Willke and Judie Brown

    The more these people try to explain, the more offensive and disgusting  they become. 

  • coralsea

    This is such a warped concept — and it isn’t even one that the Religious Right or other Rightests follow, depending on the circumstances.  Think of all of the little kids who don’t have access to health care — and yet they were willing to throw money at keeping Terri Shiavo alive!  (I think that whole sorry affair had a lot to do with “punishing” her husband.)


    And why waste a heart transplant on Dick Cheney?  After all, he’s had a good run.  Weren’t there kids or young adults out there who could have used the heart and lived more of their lives?


    Of course, the whole “sacred fetus” think is all about shaming women for having sex (which we all know).  But it also smacks of a certain magical thinking about how what is new is this shiny thing that might, this time around, be perfect rather than some swearing, misbehaving, imperfect human who has flaws, but do they really matter?  I know that my parents care more about whether someone swears or chews with their mouth open than if they “loot” companies but still go to church.  These folks on the Right need to start seeing and appreciating people — existing people — in all of their flaws and all of their wonderfulness (is that a word).  Because humans really can be wonderful and funny and smart and compassionate, even if they are flawed.  It’s too bad these folks can’t get past this and allow those who are here to live their lives without having to apologize for taking up space.


    Maybe a little off topic and rambling, but I think you get my point.



  • wildthing

    With separation of church and state the churches position is irrelvant just like that of the Council of Churches against the war in Iraq. But the members can keep it in mind or anyone else who cares when making and communicating their personal posiition or a voter group speaking as voters not as mouthpieces for their own dictators or masters. Especially on matters relating to sex where and organization of sexual repression has shown that their own official representatives cannot live the lie they are expected to and end up taking deviious and inappropriate ways to get around their own rules.

    All women face the risk of death in pregnancy and childbirth and are the only ones capable of making a decision of the risks they take as a matter of medical ethics or whatever criteria they wish to use. The fetus is a threat as an incompletely formed future birth… the body can decide arbitrarily to miscarry and a woman should have the same rights as her body to consider aborting for human reasons only she can conceive of.

    In addition the mother may already be responsible for other living beings who required her assistance. We do understand that mothers and children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria are just so much acceptable collateral damage to our strategic interests but that does not really mean that all women, children and innocent civilians are actually to be considered expendable. When they alter that logic we might consider unborn life similarly but as it is the minute they are born they are expendable plus there is no restriction of pregnant women from acceptable collateral damage anyway in our current military adventurism.


  • give-em-hell-mary

    Thank you!  Among my hundreds of books is one describing that very Nazi experiment and my interpretation was that it proved what all women know:  stress and trauma wreak havoc on their cycles, thus proving NFP to be a complete fraud, not to mention fatuous claims that rape pregnancies are rare.  And someone posted this gem on that RS article:


    People who push NFP should be arrested for medical malpractice.