When Missouri U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wis., “misspoke” about “legitimate rape” and women’s bodies being able to prevent themselves from being impregnated during rape, the Louisiana congressional delegation was not eager to weigh in.
All nine members of the state’s delegation — seven Republicans and two Democrats — declined interview requests last week, although the majority of them did release prepared statements condemning Akin’s remarks.
While Akin had faulty science and later apologized for his remarks, what his stance comes down to is that he, along with most Republicans and some Democrats, believes abortions should be illegal. He also opposes allowing for exceptions to abortions in cases of rape or incest, under the argument that a child’s life is more valuable than the right of a rape victim to terminate the pregnancy.
Likewise, the Catholic Church, for instance, does not offer any exceptions in its opposition to abortion.
Given that abortion is always a hotly debated topic in Louisiana and that some people vote primarily on their abortion views, it seemed like a good time to clarify where the delegation stands on exceptions for abortions in cases of rape and incest.
It turns out that, out of the seven anti-abortion Republicans, only Rep. Rodney Alexander, of Quitman, seemingly believes in allowing for abortion exceptions in cases of rape and incest.
They did not respond to questions about the topic this week, but U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, both opposed abortion without any such exceptions when they first ran for U.S. Senate and state Senate, respectively.
When asking specifically whether U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, supports banning abortion, including rape and incest cases, the emailed response was, “Congressman Scalise is staunchly pro-life and supports a ban on all abortion while allowing the life of the mother to be protected. He also supports increased penalties against criminals who commit rape and incest.”
When repeatedly asking the communications director for U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, whether Landry wants to outlaw abortions in cases of rape and incest, the exact same answer was repeated each time that Landry is “100 percent pro life” without officially answering the question. Ditto for Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, who also is “100 percent” anti-abortion.
Translation for both: “Yes.” Boustany also is on the record in the past opposing any exceptions for abortions.
Only U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, and his staffers haven’t fully clarified his stance after a week of trying. But Fleming has always been staunchly anti-abortion, even though nuances to his position shouldn’t be assumed. Earlier this year, Fleming made headlines when he criticized on Facebook the creation of a new “8 billion abortionplex.” The incident drew media coverage because the “abortionplex” in question was a fabricated joke story by the satirical The Onion website.
As for the two Democrats in the delegation, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond, are both pro-abortion rights, although Landrieu opposes measures such as what critics call partial-birth abortions.
Another thing the six members of the Republican delegation in the House have in common is being among the 227 co-sponsors — along with Akin and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”
The so-called Hyde Amendment, which first became law in 1976, already prohibits direct federal funds from funding abortions, which mostly affects lower-income Medicaid recipients. But the federal funding law does make exceptions for case of rape, incest and the threatened life of the mother.
The new “No Taxpayer Funding” bill passed by the House last year though would allow exceptions only in cases of “forcible rape,” incest involving minors and the health of the mother. The “forcible” language has generated controversy because it narrows the language and could ban federal funds for abortions for underage rape victims of “statutory rape.”
But most of the Louisiana delegation opposes abortion exceptions for rape victims — forcible or statutory — anyway.
Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.