Mike Huckabee and Paul Ryan have both supported “personhood” amendments, which would ban abortion in the case of rape or incest, among other things. But unlike Ryan, Huckabee has already had the opportunity to force others to live in accordance with his extreme beliefs. Ryan, who speaks shortly after Huckabee tonight at the RNC, is still waiting for his chance.
Huckabee makes no secret of his views on reproductive rights. He has denounced the “holocaust of liberalized abortion,” angering the Anti-Defamation League in the process, and he argued at a personhood fundraiser that pro-choice activists are really motivated by “profit from the sale of death.” He was raising cash, by the way, for an amendment that would have criminalized not only abortion but also in vitro fertilization, stem cell research, the treatment of ectopic pregnancies and some types of birth control.
Here’s what Huckabee did when he was in power. In August of 1996, not even a month into his governorship, he went to the mat to deny funding – $430 to be precise – for an abortion provided to a “15-year-old mentally retarded girl impregnated by her stepfather”:
In defiance of an order from a federal judge, Gov. Mike Huckabee on Friday refused to allow Medicaid to pay for the abortion of a 15-year-old girl whose stepfather has been charged with incest.
While federal law requires Medicaid to fund abortions for poor women in cases of rape or incest, Huckabee said through a spokesman his first obligation is to the Arkansas Constitution, which forbids public funds to be used for abortion except when the mother’s life is in danger.
While Huckabee claimed his first obligation was to the Arkansas Constitution, he was either willfully ignoring, or unfamiliar with, the basics of federalism. Either way, his first obligation clearly was not to the U.S. Constitution or the 15-year-old girl, who thankfully underwent the procedure in advance of the standoff. Nor was it to the people of his state. As the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported, the standoff “appeared to put the entire state Medicaid program in jeopardy.”
Huckabee stuck to his guns as long as he could. As the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported, “U.S. Dist. Judge William Wilson entered into the record Thursday a ruling that Arkansas must pay for Medicaid abortions in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother, making the ruling official” and clearing the way for contempt charges for Huckabee. That never happened, as Huckabee agreed under pressure to the creation of a private trust to pay for such abortions.
The debate over reproductive choice can seem at times to be more theoretical than practical, but Huckabee’s actions give us an idea of how a Religious Right America would look. So a 15-year-old mentally retarded girl was raped by her stepfather and got pregnant? Aw shucks, no abortion for her!