October 29, 2012 — Several New York Times columnists recently discussed reproductive health issues in the 2012 election, including recent comments by Republican Senate candidates Richard Mourdock (Ind.) and Rep. Todd Akin (Mo.) about abortion and rape. Summaries appear below.
~ Nicholas Kristof, New York Times: "If we're offended by insensitive words about rape, ... shouldn't we be incomparably more upset that rape kits are routinely left untested in the United States?" Kristoff asks. He calls on lawmakers to support the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act (S 3250), "a bipartisan bill in Congress that would help local jurisdictions count and test their rape kits." He concludes, "[L]et's pounce on politicians who say outrageous things. But even more, let's push to end outrageous policies. Routine testing of rape kits would be a good start" (Kristof, New York Times, 10/27).
~ Thomas Friedman, New York Times: Conservative lawmakers' "new extremes" in expressing their opposition to abortion rights "were not slips of the tongue," but rather "the authentic voices of an ever-more-assertive far-right Republican base," Friedman writes. Friedman argues that the label "pro-life" should not "apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth," adding, "[R]adical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society." According to Friedman, a "pro-life" position should include support for "common-sense gun control," policies to mitigate climate change and protect the environment, and general "respect for how ... life is lived, enhanced and protected" (Friedman, New York Times, 10/27).
~ Bill Keller, New York Times: Although Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan's (Wis.) response to a debate question about abortion "suggest[ed]" he "feels no imperative to impose his moral convictions on those who disagree" with his antiabortion-rights beliefs, "[d]on't be fooled," Keller writes. Ryan "has consistently voted for rolling back abortion rights," Keller states, adding that "[a]n honest answer would have been, 'I will do everything in my power to end abortion, but first I have to get elected, and to get elected I have to be careful what I say'" (Keller, New York Times, 10/26).
~ Gail Collins, New York Times: "One of the truly disturbing parts of our current politics is that we have begun to identify people who want to impose their religious beliefs on millions of women who don't share them as moderates as long as they're O.K. with the rape exemption," Collins writes. She continues, "The real moral of the Mourdock flap isn't about giving rape victims special dispensation, or whether it's offensive to say that you believe even sexual assaults are part of God's plan." Rather, "[t]he real crime of people like Mourdock and Akin is that their inartful language throws a sudden stark light on a stance that sounds so unthreatening when a candidate simply says: 'I'm pro-life,'" she concludes (Collins, New York Times, 10/26).
~ Maureen Dowd, New York Times: "It shouldn't be a surprise that many women support Romney, even though he has somersaulted on reproductive rights and his running mate sponsored a bill with Akin giving fertilized eggs the 'legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood,'" Dowd writes. Although some women who support Romney might trust him to not do anything "radical on women's reproductive rights," Dowd warns that a Romney presidency would threaten to take the nation back to an "era when white men ruled and the little women toiled over a hot stove" (Dowd, New York Times, 10/27).
~ Ross Douthat, New York Times: For supporters of President Obama, his campaign's efforts to appeal to female voters, including its "recent attempts to make the election a referendum on abortion in cases of rape," simply "emphasize that the president is on the side of female empowerment, sexual, professional and otherwise," Douthat writes. However, "This paternalistic pitch assumes that liberalism's traditional edge with women is built mostly on social issues," he writes, adding that the "gap between men and women on issues like abortion is overstated" and that recent polls have found that Obama's lead among female voters is narrowing (Douthat, New York Times, 10/27).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership