Mary Katharine Ham catches several media distortions about Paul Ryan yesterday, including the misleading claim that Ryan voted to ban abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. In fact, Ryan was one of more than 60 co-sponsors of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which doesn’t technically ban anything. As Ramesh Ponnuru explains, the act simply affirms the right of state legislatures to protect unborn life. The question of how to act on that right is up to the individual legislatures:
The first item: “He supports the Sanctity of Human Life Act” (emphasis in original). Odell wrote that the bill “seeks to ban all abortions, including in instances of rape and incest.” Ryan may, for all I know, believe that abortion should be illegal with exceptions only to save a mother’s life. But has he really co-sponsored a bill to effect this policy? No. The bill declares that fertilization marks the beginning of a human life and then “affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.” In other words, it doesn’t ban anything: It merely affirms that legislatures have the authority to protect unborn life. If Odell wishes to argue that a legislature moved by the convictions of the bill must, to be consistent, ban abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest, she can do so. It’s not in the bill.