In a speech given in Denver, President Barack Obama said, "When it comes to a woman's right to make her own health care choices, (the Republicans) want to take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century."
And that was before Gov. Mitt Romney chose Congressman Paul Ryan as a running mate.
Romney opposes abortion with an exception for cases of rape, incest and risk to the mother's life.
Ryan, on the other hand, has touted that he is as "pro-life as a person can get." He co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which was drafted by the Republican Party. By extending the 14th Amendment to fetuses, it would prohibit abortions entirely, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
Not only would that bill pave the way to banning abortions and some forms of birth control, but it could also outlaw in-vitro fertilization, ironically a process used by three of Romney's own children.
In an interview with KTVI, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo) was asked a question about whether or not he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape. Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed bodily responses he said prevented pregnancy.
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said. A clip of the interview was posted online by the liberal super PAC American Bridge. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin continued. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted "legitimate rape."
He added: "But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
(Statistics on pregnancies that result from rape are difficult to produce, since rape is a crime that often goes unreported. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, along with Planned Parenthood, each estimate that 5 percent of rapes lead to pregnancy. A 1996 study from the Medical University of South Carolina found the same percentage, adding that 32,101 pregnancies occurred annually from rape).
In response to Akin's inflammatory comment, Ryan's stance on abortion were noticeably absent from Romney's initial reaction: "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.
On Wednesday, Ryan tried to redefine his stance, seeking to distance himself from the embattled congressman. Ryan also tried to distance himself from a bill he co-sponsored with Akin to introduce language around "forcible rape" into prior legislation, in order to limit federal funding on abortions for rape victims. The congressman quickly cut off a question asking him to clarify what those terms meant, responding, "Rape is rape. Rape is rape, period. End of story."
Aside from women's health and reproductive rights, Ryan's signature budget would cut childcare and related assistance for the working mothers of 4 million children. And he voted against the first bill President Obama signed into law: the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gives women more protection to sue their employers for gender discrimination.
My definition of a "legitimate rape" is an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; exploitation; violation; a crime of power, not passion. Clearly this is what the GOP is trying to do to women. Indeed, Obama is absolutely right: they want to bring America back to the 1950s, an era when women were systematically raped by their own government.
Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to
or view her Web site at www.SarahTSchwab.com