By Paul West, Tribune Washington Bureau –
TAMPA, Fla. — The Republican Party’s platform committee approved anti-abortion language Tuesday without adding exceptions for rape — a suddenly hot issue after weekend comments by GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin in Missouri.
Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, the platform committee chairman, complimented the delegates for swiftly disposing of the abortion section. That topic, he remarked, had often consumed hours of debate in past years.
The draft 2012 platform states that “the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed” and includes support for “a human life amendment to the Constitution.” That language is identical to the anti-abortion plank in the 2008 platform and makes no specific exceptions for rape.
The abortion issue could come up again Tuesday afternoon, when the delegates consider health-related provisions. GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan oppose abortion rights but they would not oppose abortion in instances of rape, their campaign has said. That represents a change for Ryan, who previously supported exceptions only when the mother’s life was at risk.
Also Tuesday, the Republican delegates voted down efforts by social moderates to include civil unions for same-sex couples in the party platform. The platform document, which must be approved by the full convention next week, calls for approval of a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Barbara Ann Fenton of Rhode Island, one of the younger delegates, said that “homosexuality is not the biggest thing in the world” for her generation. She proposed an unsuccessful amendment to recognize civil-union partnerships “for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.”
Social conservative activist Tony Perkins, a Louisiana delegate and president of the Family Research Council, opposed the idea. “We recognize nature, we recognize history, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This would move the party immensely away from the position that this party has held,” he said.
On Monday, Perkins parted company with some leading Republicans as pressure rose on Akin to quit the Missouri Senate race. Perkins told a Washington Post reporter that he would stand by Akin if he remained in the race, despite the Missouri congressman’s comments about rape and abortion for which he apologized again Tuesday in a TV ad. Perkins called Akin’s abandonment by the Republican establishment “somewhat suspect.”
The platform committee is expected to finish its work Tuesday. The delegates spent much of the morning attempting to toughen provisions on voter fraud, praising Republican efforts to impose voter ID laws in states across the country, and debating potentially stricter requirements, such as making voters prove U.S. citizenship at the polls.