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Much of the Republican 2016 Field Has Actually Moved to the Right on Abortion

Three years ago this week, Todd Akin made his memorable remark about “legitimate rape.” Have Republican politicians become better at speaking about women’s bodies?
Republican presidential candidates arrive on stage for the Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Republican presidential candidates arrive on stage for the Republican presidential debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The pope went to Paraguay last month, and called the corruption there the “gangrene of a people.” The small, religious country of swamp, scrubland, and savanna is not one that often makes its way into American discussions of policy. But on Sunday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican candidate for president, expressed his support for Paraguay’s restrictive abortion laws—even when it means that a child impregnated by rape is forced to give birth.

The last presidential election illuminated a stark gender gap; Mitt Romney was victorious among male voters, but lost among women by 11 percentage points. Among single women, he lost by 36 points. The following year, the National Republican Congressional Committee, wanting to improve on these numbers—and avoid repeating damaging lines like former Missouri Representative Todd Akin’s on “legitimate rape,” uttered three years ago this week—held sessions with Republican aides on how to talk to and about women. Speaker John Boehner noted that, “when you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democrat caucus than there are in the Republican caucus.” He encouraged members of Congress to “be a little more sensitive.”