WHEN DURING THE VICE-PRESIDENTIAL debate Martha Raddatz asked Paul Ryan what role his religion has played in his own personal views on abortion, Ryan was quick to explain not only the central role of religion in his life, but his family’s and his political party’s:
I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life. […] Now, you want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith. That's a factor, of course. But it's also because of reason and science […] I believe that life begins at conception.
The “vulnerable” in Ryan’s charge, the “people” in need of a chance in life, were not women, but blastocyst embryos. Ryan was appealing to parens patriae (literally, “father of the people”), a doctrine which state courts have often used in the past to, among other things, compel medical treatment of in utero fetuses. This would not have been lost on the ticket’s radical ‘pro-life’ supporters, even if it was lost on the public at large. It was a high-five to a radical agenda that is pro-life when it comes to zygotes, but not to women involved in their conception.
Under parens patriae, the state has the power, and even the duty, to protect individuals not otherwise able or willing to protect themselves. If Roe v. Wade were overturned during a Romney presidency — an eventuality that Romney himself has made clear is his goal — abortion would be remanded to the states, exactly the way it had been before the 1973 Supreme Court ruling.
States could not only pass zygote personhood legislation without constitutional challenge (either by amending a state’s constitution or by making it a law), but, under parens patriae, could intervene in all sorts of medical and scientific cases, such as stem cell research and in vitro fertilization. There would be no limit.
In the debate, Raddatz followed up Ryan’s life-at-conception declaration by asking if those who support pro-choice should be worried under a Romney administration. Ryan looked at the camera, frowned, paused for two seconds, and took a deep breath.
The pause and accompanying body language seemed to indicate a deep moral crisis for the Wisconsin congressman. But, if the earnest expression — more of a boy screwing up the courage to explain why his baseball shattered the neighbor’s window than of an ambitious politician — convinced you of his sheepish sincerity, you’re underestimating him. Ryan has been called “the Republican Party’s intellectual leader” and is seen by the party as the future of the GOP. The wide-eyes with which he has been trying to answer the abortion question since Romney selected him are those of a driven zealot.
Six weeks before the debate with Raddatz, Ryan tried to sidestep the question of whether abortion should be banned even in cases of rape by deferring to Romney. &ldquo...read more