Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in a debate last night just may have staked out the most extreme social policy his party has seen in a long time, suggesting that women who get pregnant from a rape should still be forced to deliver a baby because it’s “something that God intended to happen.”
Mourdock, a Tea Party-backed candidate who beat longtime moderate Republican Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, said during the debate that he would allow abortions only when the mother’s life was in danger.
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
It is a remarkable stance for a politician to take in a nation whose laws specifically delineate a separation of church and state, so that religious beliefs are not incorporated into the laws of the land. For all of the attacks that Americans make on the elements of religious fundamentalism running through some Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East, politicians in America are increasingly trying to impose their own religious beliefs on the rest of the country.
The Republican Party approved a platform at the GOP convention in Tampa this year calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion—with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother. Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum also made comments similar to Mourdock’s earlier this year. Over the summer, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin drew a storm of attack and was even rebuked by nervous Republicans when he suggested that it was “really rare” for women to get pregnant from “legitimate rape” because their bodies had some magical capability to prevent it.
In Indiana, Mourdock’s Democratic opponent, Joe Donnelly, who is also pro-life but who supports exceptions for rape and incest, released a statement questioning Mourdock’s reasoning that God would “intend for rape to happen.”
“The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in, does not intend for rape to happen—ever,” Donnelly said. “What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape.”
Mourdock, perhaps sensing the damage he had done, held a press conference after the debate to clarify his comments. He said he had intended to say that “God creates life,” and that any interpretation of his comments to mean God “pre-ordained rape” were “sick” and “twisted.”
“What I said was, in answering the question form my position of faith, I said I believe that God creates life. I believe that as wholly and as fully as I can believe it. That God creates life,” Mourdock said. “Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think that God pre-ordained rape? No, I don’t think that. That’s sick. Twisted. That’s not even close to what I said. What I said is that God creates life.”
Although Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has campaigned with Mourdock and even appeared in a campaign video on his behalf, the Romney campaign was quick to distance itself from Mourdock’s extreme statement. Romney opposes abortion with exceptions for the victims of rape and incest and if the life of the mother is at risk, while his running mate Paul Ryan opposes all abortions except to save the life of the mother.
“Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in the statement.