The GOP shouldn't be fighting abortion exceptions for rape and incest

Many pro-lifers believe passionately that intellectual consistency demands that they favor legal protection for unborn children conceived in rape. They accept that exceptionless laws are politically impossible to pass, and therefore support legislation that excludes those cases. They would prefer to enact more-inclusive laws.

It is a defensible position. But it is a highly unpopular one. Americans are ambivalent about abortion, but they are not ambivalent about abortion in cases of rape. The last Gallup poll on this question, taken in 2011, registered 75 percent support for keeping abortion legal in such cases. Not even the most gifted rhetorician is going to persuade most Americans that opposition to such abortions is reasonable in time for November 2016.

It is also a highly theoretical position. Republican presidential candidates do not generally volunteer to answer questions such as “If it were 1965 would you vote to create Medicare?” They instead dismiss far-fetched hypotheticals. The notion that the next president is going to ban abortion in the case of rape is about as hypothetical as a question involving time travel. Perhaps in a post–Roe v. Wade America a state or two would ban abortion even in cases of rape, and those seeking such abortions would have to cross state lines. But even that is on the far edge of possibility.