Todd Akin announced Wednesday that he would not be attending next week's Republican National Convention. Apparently, RNC chairman Reince Priebus could not find a suitable speaking slot for the Missouri Republican US Senate nominee after Mitt Romney asked Akin to quit the race.
But Akin will remain a powerful "presence" at the convention, which on Monday will endorse a platform that fully embraces the congressman's stances on abortion rights and a broad array of social issues.
The platform, which has been firmed up this week, renews the party's call for amending the US Constitution with a "Human Life Amendment" that seeks to outlaw abortion. It also includes a "salute" to states that have sought, even in the absence of an amendment, to complicate access to medical procedures that the Supreme Court has determined are safe, legal and legitimate -- including requirements that women undergo invasive ultrasound procedures and accept anti-abortion "counseling."
Notably, despite the controversy over Akin's "legitimate rape" remarks, the formal position statement of the Republican Party mentions no exceptions to the bar on access to a safe and legal medical procedure, even for victims of rape and incest.
This should come as no surprise. One of Akin's most enthusiastic allies -- and an unapologetic defender of the congressman even now -- has played a a guiding role in the drafting of the platform.
The platform committee, which met Monday in Tampa, opened its session with a prayer by Phyllis Schlafly, the social-conservative campaigner who once lobbied GOP platform drafters but now oversees their deliberations from the inside -- as a Missouri delegate and revered senior figure on what is officially dubbed the Resolutions Committee.
"God, we ask for your guidance in this platform process," intoned Schlafly, the 88-year-old author of the right-wing tome A Choice Not An Echo, who at the 1976 and 1980 Republican National Conventions played a critical role in making the GOP an explicitly anti-choice party.
Since then, Schlafly has poked and prodded the party toward ever more explicit opposition to all abortions. She even founded a group, the Republican National Coalition for Life, "with the specific mission of protecting the pro-life plank in the Republican Party Platform."
Schlafly, who has for decades been involved in Missouri politics, was an early and enthusiastic endorser of Akin's candidacy for the Senate. And she defended the embattled congressman this week. Dismissing complaints about Akin's "legitimate rape" remarks as "ridiculous," Schlafly argued that the congressman's critics -- including prominent Republicans like Mitt Romney and Karl Rove -- are "making a big thing about an unfortunate remark."
Schlafly has been rock steady in her championing of Akin as "a principled leader who has championed the issues of pro-life, traditional marriage, and sound economics."
The principles, as advocated by Schlafly and Akin will be writ large in the GOP platform.
Here's the key passage in the draft platform:
"Faithful to the 'self-evident' truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children."
An example of the legislation that Schlafly and her fellow platform drafters are referencing is HR 3, the federal "No Taxpayers Funding for Abortion Act," which sought to narrow the definition of rape by making exceptions only for "forcible rape."
Along with Akin, HR 3 was cosponsored by Congressman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who will be nominated Monday as the Republican vice presidential nominee.
Ryan and Romney, who will be nominated for president Monday, have tried to distance themselves from Akin. A statement from the campaign offered a vague promise that "a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."
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