I suggested earlier that it might not be plausible to “apologize” for the kind of thing Richard Mourdock said about rape, pregnancy and abortion, short of renouncing his own political and theological views.
Readers offered some suggestions on what a genuine apology from Mourdock would sound like:
TPM Reader JL:
During the last Senate debate, I was asked about my views on protecting the lives of the unborn. My answer was imprecise and caused offense to some. I deeply regret any offense I may have caused.
My heart goes out to every woman who is the victim of the unspeakable crime of rape. I believe that swift justice for attackers, and compassionate care for victims, is a moral obligation.
But I also believe that the innocent should not be punished for the acts of the guilty, and to allow abortion in such an instance would be punishing an innocent child for the crimes of another. My respect for the sanctity of human life—all human life—is a guiding principle for me. As such, I cannot accept the practice of abortion except in those rare instances where it is necessary to save a life, and still remain true to my faith and my conscience. I have always believed, and will always believe, that life is a gift from God. That’s how I will vote as your next Senator.
TPM Reader DE:
Speaking as an atheist and a Democrat I do not think it is too hard to imagine the outlines of the apology:
“God the creator determines the measure of human life. His ways are mysterious to us and beyond our understanding but when an innocent life is brought into being it is not for us the judge whether that life is worthy of existing for god has already ordained it so. I apologize if my comments were inartful and were taken by some to suggest that rape is anything other that a horrible savage crime. I meant only that whenever a human life comes into existence it is god’s will and that however terrible or trying the the circumstances we should recognize and celebrate that innocent life as God’s will and his grace.”
Or something like that.
TPM Reader RD:
If Mourdock has any shot at all of putting his remarks into a believable context that might also find some sympathy with those not inclined to extend it to him, he probably would focus on the meaning of his “gift from God” statement.
The thing to do is to explain that the “gift” as such is not to the raped mother, but rather to the child. More than likely, that’s what he was thinking of when he made his original statement. And it wouldn’t be that hard to sell—who would consider any part of an act of rape as a “gift” to the woman upon whom it’s perpetrated? The emphasis isn’t on how the woman feels about anything, it’s about taking away the “gift of life” from a child, no matter the origin of said gift.
In other words, it comes down to whether or not abortion is morally permissible. Abortion for any reason other than direct threat to the mother’s life, is, to this line of thinking, ultimately a matter of personal preference and convenience.
Mourdock can probably safely double down on that message and stand a good chance of getting away with it. There are lots of voters who believe as he does.
TPM Reader RC takes it a step farther, explaining why an apology here would be impossible:
There is really no good way for Mourdock to apologize on this. He’s boxed in by his genuine heartfelt beliefs, because frankly his is the only pro-life position that actually makes sense.
If you listen to him and try to understand his points, it seems to me that he is saying that he has struggled with his compassion for what he sees as two victims: the rape victim and the “unborn child.” That is a fair and honest thing for him to say. I disagree wholeheartedly with him, because I do not believe abortion is murder (and I think there is no Biblical support to make that claim), but that is a genuine struggle for a person of compassion that believes that it is.
To me, any arguments for a rape exception should be immoral for a person that truly believes abortion is murder. Accepting rape or incest exceptions is clear evidence that one’s goal is solely to control women. Mourdock has reached that logical conclusion as well.
Akin reached that inevitable conclusion too, but he justified his implied lack of compassion for rape victims with phony science, pretending they don’t exist. Mourdock hasn’t done that, and, while his beliefs are fortunately still radical in this country, there is no way for him to back away from it without denouncing his interpretation of Christianity.
Over one-fourth of Americans share Mourdock’s views, and they are by far the most vocal on abortion issues in this country. Outrage at his statement is justifed. But surprise, or shock? That should be embarrassing.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.