Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

The 'new normal' for GOP: No abortion, no exceptions, not ever

In last week's Republican debate, Sen. Marco Rubio made it a point to stress his opposition to legal abortion in all instances, including in cases of rape, incest and even when the life of the mother is at stake. It was what the conservative audience wanted to hear, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin took that absolutist position as well.

"It's a false choice," Walker explained later about the life-of-the-mother exception. "I've said for years, medically there's always a better choice than choosing between the life of an unborn baby and the life of the mother. Medically that's just a non-issue."

That comes as startling news to thousands of obstetricians and gynecologists around the country, who are forced to deal regularly with issues such as ectopic pregnancies, pre-eclampsia and other medical conditions in which a pregnancy carried to full term poses a serious threat to the woman's life. Pregnancy can also seriously aggravate pre-existing health problems to the point that they too threaten a woman's life. Physicians see such cases every day.

But based on the assertion by Walker -- a man who lacks a medical degree, or indeed a college degree of any kind -- medical textbooks around the world will now have to be rewritten. If he has been saying for years that it's a non-issue medically, then a non-issue it must be.

Rubio is similarly dismissive. "I don't say it's easy," he acknowledged later. "But when asked to make a decision between two very hard circumstances, I personally reached the decision, if I'm going to err, I'm going to err on the side of life."

Note how the Florida Republican frames the issue: "When asked to make a decision between two very hard circumstances .... " But who asked him or empowered him to make that decision? He and his wife, if confronted with a life-threatening pregnancy, would certainly have the right to make that deeply personal decision for themselves. But only for themselves.

The idea that politicians such as Rubio and Walker should be granted the authority to tells tens of thousands of other couples how they must proceed in such circumstances, without knowing anything about their individual medical situation, family life or religious belief, is horrendous. If they get their way, for example, a 45-year-old mother of four would be forced by law to carry a dangerous pregnancy to term, even if it meant leaving her surviving children without a mother.

I'm sorry: I find that difficult to wrap my head around.

And again, let's not overlook the fact that in the world that Rubio, Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and others want to create, abortion would be outlawed in cases of rape and incest as well. A 14-year-old girl impregnated by her father, brother or uncle would have no legal choice but to carry that pregnancy to term, because men who don't even know her name have decided that she must do so. In addition, pregnancies in which the embryo or fetus are known to be fatally compromised -- for instance, those in which no skull or brain had formed -- would have to be carried to term, regardless of the wishes of the woman or the ultimate fate of the fetus.

Not too many years ago, such a position would have been viewed as radical even within the Republican Party. Today it is part of the GOP platform, recited by almost every major GOP presidential candidate as evidence of being within the conservative mainstream. The increasingly lonely "moderate" position is represented largely by Jeb Bush, who would still grudgingly allow abortion in cases of rape and incest and to protect the life of the mother, but who showed no compunction about enlisting the full power of government to impose his own personal "pro-life" belief system on the tragic Terri Schiavo and her family.

This is the party preaching freedom, liberty and small, inobtrusive government. This is the party that asks to be given control of every branch of the federal government.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.