During a debate last week between the Indiana Senate candidates, Republican State Treasurer Richard Mourdock and U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Mourdock was asked to explain why he wants to make abortion illegal, even for victims of rape and incest.
Mourdock said, "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," adding that he would allow for exceptions to an abortion ban when a mother's life was in danger.
Donnelly, a moderate who opposes abortion, but would allow exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered, said, "The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in does not intend for rape to happen — ever. What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape."
Mourdock’s comments were disgusting, offensive, appalling and demeaning to women, showing a lack of compassion for rape survivors that is callous, insulting and completely out of touch. But there were follow-up questions regarding the implications of his remarks that went unasked.
In claiming that a pregnancy resulting from rape was “something that God intended to happen," Mourdock expressed a belief in determinism, the theory that everything that happens is preordained by God. If we take this theory, which Mourdock wasn’t asked about, to its logical conclusion, if anything goes wrong, it is God’s will. If that’s the case, then why bother doing anything? But God doesn’t control our thoughts and actions, and we have free will, although some things are within our control and others beyond our control.
Mourdock’s statement was very much in the spirit of Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin, who falsely claimed that pregnancies rarely result from “legitimate rape,” and that a woman can shut down her reproductive system to prevent pregnancy, which is physically impossible. In fact, a woman getting pregnant through rape means that biology continues to function, and has nothing to do with God’s will.
In seeking to clarify his outrageous comments, Mourdock said he is sorry if he offended anyone, but that he spoke from the heart, while contradicting his apparent embrace of determinism. He said, "I absolutely abhor violence. I absolutely abhor any kind of sexual violence. I abhor rape, and I am absolutely confident that, as I stand here, the God that I worship abhors violence, abhors sexual violence and abhors rape. The God that I worship would never, ever want to see evil done.”
Since Mourdock wants to require a raped woman to carry the rapist's child to term, he should have been questioned regarding how the woman and her child should be treated. There should have been follow-up questions covering such matters as paying her medical expenses, compensating her for time lost to work, and paying for the child's upbringing and education.
Mourdock is the only Republican Senate candidate who has presidential candidate Mitt Romney appearing in a TV ad. After his comments, there were calls for Romney to withdraw his endorsement of Mourdock and pull the ad. But Romney, flunking a test of leadership and character, doubled-down on his endorsement of Mourdock and let the ads continue to run. Romney’s spokeswoman, Andrea Saul said he "disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr. Mourdock's comments do not reflect Gov. Romney's views," but it is clear that Romney is afraid to alienate right wing extremists, who have put a proposed constitutional amendment in the Republican platform that would ban abortion in all circumstances.
Meanwhile, Mourdock and Donnelly are locked in a tight race. Mourdock won the Republican primary over longtime incumbent Richard Lugar over complaints that Lugar was too willing to make bipartisan compromises to solve problems. Mourdock’s extremism and his revolting comments may cost the Republicans a Senate seat they have held for 36 years.