There were a couple of news stories this weekend that really fleshed out the contours of the culture war on abortion rights in completely different, yet related, ways. First, there was West Virginia State Delegate Brian Kurcaba, who became nationally famous for saying that babies who are the result of rape are beautiful. He made the comments last week after a hearing on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, without a rape exemption.
"Obviously rape is one of the most egregious acts anyone can ever do to someone For somebody to take advantage of somebody else in such a horrible and terrifying and brutal way is absolutely disgusting. But what is beautiful is the child that could come as a production of this."
Kurcaba later apologized in a statement to WOWK's 13 News:
“I apologize to anyone who took my comments about the sanctity of human life to mean anything other than that all children are precious regardless of circumstances. It is unfortunate that the only portions of my statement were publicized resulting in misrepresentation. As always, I will ensure that my focus continues to be on making West Virginia a better place to create jobs and raise a family.”
It's the type of "I'm sorry if you were offended" apology that we've all become accustomed to, but on its own merits, I'm not really sure what he's apologizing for, or to whom. I don't know of anyone who would disagree with any of that statement. I'm sure every one of these people were beautiful babies, and even grew up to be beautiful adults. Clearly, Kurcaba wasn't trying to say that rape is a beautiful thing, but I don't think anyone thinks that.
You know who else is beautiful? Bella Santorum, the six year-old daughter of former Senator Rick Santorum, who is back in the news, and promoting a book about his family's struggle with Bella's disability. On ABC News' This Week, Santorum and wife Karen spoke movingly, and with surprising rawness, about the book.
"I decided that the best thing I could do was to treat her differently, to not love her like I did, because it wouldn't hurt as much if I lost her."
Santorum has become a special kind of villain to the left, particularly for his views on social issues, much of which he deserves. But just as some on the left went too far in criticizing the Santorum family's personal reaction to the grief at losing a newborn child in 1996, I've heard some suggestions this past weekend that Santorum's book is somehow an attempt to politically exploit Bella's disability. I wouldn't believe that about Santorum anyway, but I also don't think any story in which he's telling his kids to hold onto the box for Bella's crib is going to play well on the stump.
Bella was barely given odds to reach her first birthday, but she is six years old now, a beautiful little miracle. So is Trig Palin, whose potential challenges caused Sarah Palin to think about having an abortion while she was pregnant with him, but whom she now regards as an unmitigated blessing.
The crux of the abortion rights debate, though, isn't about the beauty of babies, and the children and adults they grow into, it's about women, and the choices that they have to make about their own bodies. It is beautiful that Sarah Palin, Karen Santorum, and Miss Pennsylvania's mom had choices that allowed them to make the decisions they made. If you're someone who believes in choice, then it is ugly of Palin and Santorum to try and take those choices away from all women.
But whichever side of this debate you stand on, it is objectively ugly that Republican leaders are trying to hide their beliefs from the public. People like Kurcaba or Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock get cut loose by the party, but in reality, none of them believe in an exception for rape; this is a concession, the best they can do. If there is room to wiggle, it's in the area of contraception, which some of them are okay with.
They are going to do what they have to do to keep getting elected, but there's no excuse for the media letting them sell the lie, or helping them. George Stephanopoulos may have only thought he was doing publicity for Santorum's book, but he's a journalist who was interviewing a possible presidential candidate. Their story is compelling, but is also being used to advocate against the rights of others to make their own choices, and Stephanopoulos should have asked them about it.