Accompanying Paul Ryan’s radical fiscal vision is perhaps an even more radical vision with respect to women’s health. Ryan opposes abortion in all cases, including rape or incest, and has sponsored a bill that perhaps goes as far as possible to restrict a woman’s right to choose legal medical procedures.
He was a cosponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a federal bill defining fertilized eggs as human beings, which, if passed, would criminalize some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization. The National Right to Life Committee has scored his voting record 100 percent every year since he entered the House in 1999. “I’m as pro-life as a person gets,” he told The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack in 2010. “You’re not going to have a truce.”
Indeed, Ryan exemplifies a strange sort of ideological hybrid that now dominates the GOP. On economic issues, he’s a hardcore libertarian who once said, “[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker…it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” Yet when it comes to women’s control of their bodies, he quickly turns into a statist. “In the state of nature—the ‘law of the jungle’—the determination of who ‘qualifies’ as a human being is left to private individuals or chosen groups,” he wrote in a 2010 essay titled “The Cause of Life Can’t Be Severed From the Cause of Freedom.” “In a justly organized community, however, government exists to secure the right to life and the other human rights that follow from that primary right.”
Here’s that essay, still prominently featured on Ryan’s official US House website. In it, Ryan tries to square this fiscal libertarianism with his extreme interventionism in matters of women’s health. As Michelle Goldberg notes, he never mentions the word “woman” in the essay, which is pretty abstract. He tries to make a distinction between economic freedom and what he describes as “human rights,” saying that in economic terms, “government’s role is very limited when it comes to our specific choices,” but on these human rights questions, “The rights of any entity that qualifies as “human” must be protected.” In this essay he performs the familiar conservative pro-life tactic of equating Roe v. Wade with the Dred Scott decision, something George W. Bush famously dog whistled in a 2004 debate. And he adds this:
Now, after America has won the last century’s hard-fought struggles against unequal human rights in the forms of totalitarianism abroad and segregation at home, I cannot believe any official or citizen can still defend the notion that an unborn human being has no rights that an older person is bound to respect.
That’s the line in the sand here. Ryan believes the unborn are fully human and must be protected. That’s a deeply radical take with implications for birth control and in vitro fertilization and a whole host of other policies. He believes in forcing women to birth children, as their choice cannot trump the unborn’s life. And on the question of whether women should face murder charges for abortions, he has said, obliquely, is that “If it’s illegal, it’s illegal.”
Mitt Romney has been all over the place on this question, as with many others, throughout his political career. But his choice of running mate says plenty about who he would seek to appeal to in his Presidency. There was no way a pro-choice Republican like Condi Rice would ever, ever get that VP nod.