Monday, February 19, 2018
Politics

A party platform without choice is an injustice to victims

Just last week in our own back yard, Republicans made official a party platform that includes support for a constitutional amendment against abortion with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

And this week in our own back yard, we saw headlines about a terrible crime that makes you wonder if they can possibly mean it.

The girl is not yet in her teens. Pinellas County sheriff's officials say her mother's boyfriend, a man named Gregory Johns, who had a history of violent crime, raped her. He was ultimately shot dead by deputies trying to arrest him. She was impregnated. She was 11. It bears repeating.

Eleven.

Forget for a moment a woman's very personal right to choose, the spark for recent demonstrations at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Here is a question for those who seem to know what's best for the rest of the world:

Can reasonable people really believe there should be no choice, under any circumstance, even in what happened to this child?

Despite the language (or lack thereof) in his party platform, Republican presidential pick Mitt Romney has said he supports exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother's life is in danger. Heartbeat-away vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has in the past sounded a more hard-line note. And Republicans have among them a Senate hopeful who recently and famously opined that in real rapes, a woman's body has this secret way of rejecting impregnation, citing "doctors" as his source for this miracle.

Which would be news to anyone involved in the case of the girl preyed upon by a 42-year-old man in what you would hope even Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri would consider a "legitimate" rape. It would be news to cops and prosecutors who deal with children similarly victimized.

One of the Daily Shows from Tampa last week included a grimly funny bit: Correspondent Samantha Bee talked to various convention attendees about how Romney's stance on abortion was less stringent with the exceptions he named than the party's own no-exception platform.

Well, they answered, it was a personal matter, and Romney had a right to choose.

A choice — get it?

Imagine a child is raped and pregnant — Akin's theory notwithstanding — and a law that says too bad, she has no choice.

I called a half-dozen conservative local Republicans, including statewide office holders, but apparently no one wants to talk about how this 11-year-old fits in with the platform.

A.J. Matthews, a Hillsborough Republican state committeeman who wasn't afraid of Samantha Bee last week, did call back. He agrees with Romney's exceptions, he says.

So how does he reconcile himself to a party platform that could one day forbid a child victim from having a choice?

"Even if it was passed … I would support something that would make exceptions," he said.

But those exceptions are not included for a reason: because the party did not put them there.

A spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says a victim's advocate is working with the girl and her family, that she is being helped in any way they can. I don't presume to know what they will do, but in this sad and personal circumstance, at least they have choices, at least for now.

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