The XX Factor

Paul Ryan’s Extreme Anti-Choice Views

Paul Ryan.
Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan campaigns on Sunday in Waukesha, Wis.

Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images.

As soon as Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, the common wisdom coalesced around the idea that Romney was trying to shore up support with the Tea Party base on economic issues. But Ryan’s extreme social conservatism likely had something to do with the pick as well. As Michelle Goldberg notes at the Daily Beast, Ryan runs far to the right even of most Republicans on the issue of choice. Indeed, his statements and votes on the issue start to seem like Ryan sincerely believes that a fertilized egg has more rights than an actual woman with a real brain and feelings.

Goldberg looks over this lengthy piece written by Ryan explaining his views on reproductive rights—a piece where he never even bothers to mention women—and she concludes, “To him, a woman’s claim to bodily autonomy or self-determination doesn’t merit even cursory consideration.” Just in case he’s left any doubt in the reader’s mind that he simply doesn’t acknowledge women as people, Ryan concludes that the reasons liberals are pro-choice is because we find children repulsive: 

At the core, today’s “pro-choice” liberals are deeply pessimistic. They denigrate life and offer fear of the present and the future—fear of too many choices and too many children. Rather than seeing children and human beings as a benefit, the “pro-choice” position implies that they are a burden. Despite the “pro-choice” label, liberals’ stance on this subject actually diminishes choices, lowers goals, and leads us to live with less. That includes reducing the number of human beings who can make choices.

This paragraph makes no sense unless you approach it with the assumption that the categories “women” and “human beings” are mutually exclusive. In order for the system of mandatory childbearing that he proposes to not decrease choices, women must be creatures who can make people but cannot be people. Of course, his belief that support for abortion rights is about child-hating instead of support for women is easy enough to disprove with the facts. More than 60 percent of women having abortions are already mothers, and most of the rest wish to be someday. When women offer their reasons for having abortions, “I dislike children and don’t want to be around them” doesn’t even rate high enough to make it into the data. Mostly the women fear that it’s not a good time in their lives, and about half of them don’t want to end up as a single mother.

Ryan may not be able to bring himself to acknowledge women at all, but as Scott Lemieux at the American Prospect notes, Ryan does believe that fertilized eggs deserve 14th Amendment protections, even though the amendment specifically notes that one must be “born” to be a person. However, Ryan has voted directly against legislation—the Lilly Ledbetter Act—that was crafted to ensure those 14th Amendment rights for women. Taking his statements and voting record as a whole, it’s hard not to conclude that Paul Ryan quite literally believes that fertilized eggs deserve more rights than women.