Paul Ryan’s Dishonesty Regarding Abortion
By Megan Shaw
At the end of the recent vice presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz turned to the two candidates with a rather personal question. Both Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan are vocal about their devotion to faith and the Catholic Church, yet Raddatz noted that each hold very different views on abortion. Biden, while accepting the Church’s view of abortion in his personal life, is politically pro-choice, while Ryan is both personally and politically pro-life. In the debate, Ryan took issue with Biden’s pro-choice point of view while accepting the Church’s stance of life beginning at conception: “If you believe that life begins at conception,” he argued, “that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of the Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.”
The Romney-Ryan ticket and a large portion of the pro-life community hold this stance on abortion—that abortion is incontrovertibly unethical, except in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother’s health is in danger. Common sense dictates that this point of view would be seen as more moderate and more reasonable than a staunchly pro-life position that disregards exceptional circumstances.
The logic behind this argument is fallacious. Ryan says that life begins at conception, and thus the removal of a fetus via abortion qualifies as murder, a belief he highlighted in the debate when he gave an emotional account of seeing the first ultrasound of his daughter.
Ryan, in other words, assigns personhood to the fetus. Ryan claims that “science and reason” form the basis of his pro-life position, while also defining life as beginning at conception; this rhetoric seems confused if we reflect on the scientific evidence against this definition.
Regardless, if Ryan truly believes that abortion is murder, why should abortion be acceptable in cases of rape or incest, or in which the mother’s life is at risk? After all, if a fetus is a person, it shouldn’t matter what the situation is. A life is a life. Would it be ethical to murder a person because they were the product of rape or incest? Would it be morally acceptable to choose who of two people should live and who should die?
The contradiction in Ryan’s projected views is puzzling. Because, if Ryan truly believed that a fetus’s life was just like any other’s, he would not allow for those exceptions. If Ryan truly believed that a fetus was a person, he would not necessarily allow for intervention in a case where the mother’s life is threatened.
I am left to draw the conclusion that Ryan does not oppose abortion simply because he believes that life begins at conception. There is another option: that Ryan, like much of the pro-life movement, opposes abortion because he believes women should have to deal with the consequences of sexual intercourse. It is, perhaps, an echo of the conservative backlash against Sandra Fluke for wanting birth control covered under women’s health insurance in the same way that Viagra is for men on so many plans. It begins and ends with an overwhelming lack of concern for women.
The Romney-Ryan opposition to abortion does not rely on the hope of protecting lives, but rather on the oppression of female sexuality and an outdated desire to control the actions of women. Whether or not the possibility of the overturning of Roe v. Wade under a Romney administration is feasible depends on one’s personal opinion of the power of the executive branch.
Regardless, for a party that proudly touts itself as protector of freedom and democracy, and that fervently denies the existence of what the media has dubbed the conservative “War on Women,” this election’s Republican ticket seems to be unconcerned with women’s best interests.