Rep. Paul Ryan is considered a single-issue candidate — a vice presidential pick who bolsters Mitt Romney’s argument that this election is about the economy and only the economy.
Ryan hasn’t dedicated much time to social issues. But the Wisconsinite, best understood as an anti-tax, anti-spending purist, has taken positions outside the mainstream on issues like abortion and women’s health.
An examination of Ryan’s record reveals a congressman who, with few exceptions, has hewed to his party’s far-right base on social issues. He has supported a federal ban on abortion even in the case of rape and incest, and a ban on gay adoption.In January 2011, days after Republicans took over the House, Ryan co-sponsored legislation to declare that “each human life begins with fertilization,” providing fetuses the same rights as a person, thereby permitting states to ban all abortion, without exceptions.
“At the core, today’s ‘pro-choice’ liberals are deeply pessimistic,” Ryan said in a lengthy September 2010 statement titled “The Cause of Life Can’t Be Severed from the Cause of Freedom.” “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.”
The Romney campaign didn’t respond to inquiries to clarify Ryan’s position on abortion in extreme cases. His campaign has previously noted that Romney supports exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother in his opposition to legal abortion.
Ryan has also voted against letting U.S. troops and their families get abortions at military health centers abroad, and to rescind abortion coverage under the federal employee health plan.
The VP nominee has consistently voted against funding women’s health programs. His budget proposals defund Planned Parenthood and rescind all dollars for family planning grants under Title X (which already cannot be used for abortion). He’s a vehement opponent of the Obama administration directive that non-church insurance plans must cover birth control among other preventive services without co-pays.
LGBT groups are disappointed with Ryan’s record on gay rights. He voted in 2004 and 2006 for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He also voted against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” as well as hate-crime legislation. In 1999, he voted to ban gay couples from adopting children in the District of Columbia.
The congressman famously broke with the right wing in 2007 to vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which prohibited workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The move won him praise from gay conservatives.
Ultimately, social issues don’t animate Ryan. Despite his ardent pro-life stances, for instance, he has been willing to look the other way and endorse Republican candidates who support abortion rights, as long as they’re with him on fiscal issues.
“The only litmus test is whether they’re going to take on this debt and deficits and entitlement spending when they get here, or are they going to buckle when pressure occurs?” Ryan told the Janesville Gazette in July 2010. “We’re just going to agree to disagree on those issues like abortion, and we’ll do so with mutual respect.”