Olens: GOP abortion plank does not rule out rape as exception

WASHINGTON— The clamor over the Republican National Committee's platform language concerning abortion is overblown, said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who helped write the party's defining document.

By phone from Tampa, where Olens spent two days as one of 112 Republicans crafting a platform ahead of next week’s convention there, Olens said the platform’s approach to abortion is not as specific as many observers suggest.

“The platform is silent as to the exceptions, and those are issues, frankly, for Congress,” Olens said.

In light of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s incorrect assertion that women rarely get pregnant from rape — which the Senate candidate from Missouri used to defend his position that abortion should be illegal even when the mother is raped — Republican views on the issue have come under new scrutiny. Most Republicans long have wanted to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, but they have split on whether there should be exceptions for rape or incest.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said this week, after Akin’s comments, that he would support a rape exception.

In the platform approved Tuesday night and to be voted on next week by all the convention delegates, the GOP states that unborn children have “a fundamental individual right to life that cannot be infringed.” The platform also supports a constitutional amendment granting citizenship protections to the unborn. The stances are unchanged from previous platforms.

“They’re being consistent, it’s just that with the whole Akin thing dropped in their laps, it’s like they are sitting in a family picnic and a skunk falls out of a tree on your lap,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University. “They don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about Akin or, necessarily, abortion.”

While Democrats dubbed the abortion language the “Akin plank,” Olens said that, to him, the interesting outcome of the platform discussions was in the section concerning the economy. Since the last platform drafting in 2008 the GOP has changed dramatically with the rise of the tea party, and Olens said this was reflected in provisions concerning the national debt and a push to audit the Federal Reserve. Olens and state party Chairwoman Sue Everhart represented Georgia on the platform drafting committee.

Olens and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will address the convention Wednesday night, amid a series of party heavyweights during the lead-up to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech.

Olens said their speech is “still in draft form” and will broadly address the work of attorneys general. Olens and Bondi were among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the 2010 health care law, which was partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.