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GOP Platform Committee Adopts Abortion Position


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

A deadline came and went yesterday and Todd Akin remains on the ballot for United States Senate in Missouri. On a radio program, the Republican said his party was overreacting in the effort to drive him out of the race.

GREENE: He said everything changed because he used, quote, "one word in one sentence on one day." There was a national uproar when Akin said victims of, as he put it, legitimate rape rarely get pregnant because, he said, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

INSKEEP: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney condemned Akin's language and also disagreed with him on the underlying point. Akin opposes allowing abortion after a rape. Romney generally opposes abortion but would allow it after a rape.

GREENE: But the timing for Romney is awkward. Republicans are preparing for their national convention. And at that convention the party will vote on a platform that is closer to Akin's position than Romney's.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Allen reports on the preparations yesterday in Tampa.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Democrats have seized Akin's comments, using them to attack Mitt Romney and the Republican Senate and congressional candidates. The issue of women's health and abortion for rape victims has put Republicans on the defensive. Yesterday, as party members met in Tampa to put together their platform, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell worked to quickly dispose of the issue.

McDonnell moved the committee toward adopting a constitutional amendment that would in effect ban abortions. And he made it clear that he wasn't seeking an extended discussion.

GOVERNOR BOB MCDONNELL: I have no other amendments and I'm not asking for any.

ALLEN: It's the same resolution that was part of Republican platforms in 2004 and 2008. The resolution contains no language providing exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman. Those are exceptions Romney supports.

Afterwards, McDonnell said, the question of whether there should be exceptions for rape and incest, he believes, is one not for the national party but for the states.

MCDONNELL: Listen, this has been a pro-life party for 30 years. Much of which is in the plank here today on the life issues, as well as the family and marriage issues, are things that have been part of our plank a long time. I don't think it's any surprise to anybody that we support human life. We...

ALLEN: McDonnell said Todd Akin's comments about rape were wrong but had nothing to do with anti-abortion language in the party platform.

Another member of the committee, Louisiana delegate Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, also said he disagreed with Akin's remarks. But unlike many other Republicans, Perkins says Akin is right to stay in the race.

TONY PERKINS: Yes, it was poorly articulated. Yes, it was inappropriate in what he said. But the principle behind it, they're - what they're trying to do is get Republicans to run from those core value issues. And I think it only creates a kind of a stampede mentality if people get out. So I'm, you know, again, if he's going to stay in, I going to stand with him.

ALLEN: After the GOP platform vote, the Obama campaign began calling the party's anti-abortion provision the Akin amendment.

Sharee Langenstein, a delegate from downstate Illinois, said as the mother of six daughters, she's tired of Democrats suggesting that opposing abortion is the same as opposing women's health. She sponsored an amendment that cites studies that she says show abortions endanger the health and welfare of women.

SHAREE LANGENSTEIN: I think that we are reaching out to women by affirming our stance as being the party of life, the party that upholds the sanctity of human life. And that is of itself pro-woman.

ALLEN: In defending the party's platform, committee chairman Bob McDonnell said it holds true to traditional Republican values, while being updated to reflect changing times.

One way it was updated yesterday was to include a provision that supports banning the RU-486 pill and similar drugs that end pregnancies. But one of the delegates, 22-year-old Jackie Curtiss from Alabama, objected.

JACKIE CURTISS: In light of the recent comments by Congressman Todd Akin, and in an attempt to reaffirm to the American people the party's sensitivity on the subject of rape, I believe that we should not support an amendment which opposes approval of a method that's been proven effective in preventing the pregnancy of rape victims...

ALLEN: The amendment passed after others on the committee said the resolution would not affect the morning-after pill, which is often given to rape victims.

In another resolution she supported, Curtiss tried to convince platform committee members to tone down their support for abstinence-only sex education, without success. Afterwards she talked with reporters.

CURTISS: You know, I'm a little disappointed that the Republican Party didn't take into account that with college-educated women, they support Barack Obama 63 to 32 percent. And I think some of these issues are the reason for that. And while I wish that we would move forward, we're not. And I'm not one person. I don't make the rules. And hopefully in four years we can move forward.

ALLEN: The GOP platform now goes before the full convention, where it will be formally approved next week.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Tampa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.