American VP Debate on Abortion: Ryan’s Views Will Take Women Back More Than 40 Years

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Last night, the contrast between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden on abortion couldn’t have been more blatant. When the subject finally came up nearly 40 minutes into the debate, moderator and ABC correspondent Martha Radditz framed the issue brilliantly.

Of course she did. It would take a woman, a seasoned war correspondent at that, to bring a subject up like this universally important to women, wouldn’t it?

But let’s face it. After Romney’s head-snapping comment to the Des Moines Register earlier this week, where he claimed that there was not any legislation he was familiar with on abortion that he would sign as president, and his campaign staff then had to frantically do damage control to reassure Romney’s anti-abortion conservative base that his position had not changed, and Romney himself told reporters that he was “pro-life,” women were dying to hear Ryan explain.

What the hell did he and Romney believe?

Noting that both Biden and Ryan are practicing Catholics, she asked them what role religion has played in their personal views on abortion. She also asked both men to “please talk personally about this if you could.”

Ryan’s anti-choice agenda is hardly a secret. He’s been explicit about his views for months now. I’ve heard him talk about them so often I can almost recite them in my sleep. He is adamantly opposed to abortion under any circumstance—even in cases of incest and rape and saving the life of the mother.

He co-sponsored a “personhood” amendment that would have given a fertilized egg the same legal rights as a woman. Even Mississippi rebelled against this medieval idea when it was put on the ballot there last November. Interestingly, among the many groups that fought the amendment was a group of Christian moms who couldn’t have had children if the bill had passed because they’d conceived through IVF.

As Salon noted about Ryan’s extremist anti-abortion views:.

He has bragged to the far right of his party that he is “never going to not vote pro-life” and, as just one example of that commitment, in 2006 co-sponsored legislation to require doctors to tell women that a fetus could feel pain at 20 weeks and advising medication for the fetus to stop its pain during an abortion — a measure intended to emotionally intimidate women seeking abortions.

I’m not done yet. The Young Gun, as he likes to call himself, co-sponsored a bill with Missouri Senate candidate Todd “legitimate rape” Akin that would have changed the legal definition of rape to “forcible rape.” Not surprisingly Ryan later walked back his vote after he was picked to be Romney’s running mate.

Just as he did on abortion tonight.

As I watched Ryan talk about his anti-choice stance–a position he came to because of “reason and science” when he saw a bean-sized, seven-week-old ultrasound of his daughter—I wondered, would he stick to his principles? Or would he cynically compromise them to appeal to women voters and moderates who believe women should actually have a say in their own decisions about health, pregnancy—and yes, sex.

I was not disappointed. When asked to define what a Romney abortion policy would be, Ryan said with an absolute straight face that it would allow exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. And he muttered it under his breath.

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Credit Image: © Richard Graulich/ZUMA Press/

But Biden heard the change as clear as a bell. And he seized the opportunity to go after Ryan’s hypocrisy. “I guess he accepts Gov. Romney’s position now because in the past he has argued in case of rape or incest it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion.”

And then Biden said forcefully, “I fundamentally disagree with that.”

Biden talked about his Catholic faith, too. How he believes in the Church’s definition of life as beginning at conception. He accepts it. But here is where he parts significantly from Ryan, who would foist his beliefs and morals on women whether they agree with him or not in the most invasive and personal and misogynistic way.

Biden would not.

“With regard to my church’s position on abortion, I accept it in my personal life, but I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews. Unlike my friend the congressman here, I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people, women, they can’t control their bodies. It’s a decision between a woman and her doctor.”

That was all I needed to hear.

Certainly one of the more disturbing aspects of Ryan’s performance and smirky-boy demeanor in relation to abortion and the many medical benefits women will finally receive under Obamacare–which Ryan has also vowed to kill–was that he didn’t mention women once. Not once. It’s like we don’t exist.

Ryan, to give him credit, is right about one thing. This election is a very stark choice between two political visions.

For women, it’s the difference between equality and going back 40 years.

Top photo image credit: WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES

Mona Gable
Mona Gable is a political blogger for The Huffington Post where her posts on the 2008 presidential election and on Hillary Clinton’s candidacy have been linked to by numerous websites, from ABC News.com to The Drudge Report.

In addition to blogging, Mona is an award-winning journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle, Health, LA magazine, Wall Street Journal, Child, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

She is a contributor to the new Seal Press anthology “The Maternal Is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change.” Her essays have also been published in two bestselling anthologies, “Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood,” which won the American Book Award and the bestselling anthology “A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters.” She is currently working on a memoir, a portion of which will be published in West this spring. Since 2004, she has taught creative nonfiction and personal essay in the Writers Program at UCLA Extension.
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