Even as the GOP rushes to distance itself from Todd Akin, the party's platform reminds us how radical it has become
“The platform calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, even in the case of rape and incest,” noted CNN, which “sweeps beyond the stated positions” of the candidate.
That candidate, an antiabortion activist told CNN, “kind of has to reestablish contact with the conservative majority of his party.” He added, “So, I think he’s starting down that process now, and assuming that it continues that way for the rest of the convention, we’re going to — I think conservatives are going to be happy.”
It was 1992, and the candidate in question was President George H.W. Bush, who officially backed such exceptions. Back then, pro-choice Republicans, or moderate ones, weren’t a wholly endangered species and were putting up a real fight from within. But over the years, the social conservative takeover has made that fight either futile or near-invisible, bringing us to today’s GOP call for a Human Life Amendment in its forthcoming party platform. Once again, we have a presidential candidate whose fealty to the Christian right is still being questioned. Once again, the platform language has no exceptions for rape and incest, which is the current position professed by the Romney-Ryan campaign, notwithstanding how temporarily uncomfortable this widespread position has been made by Todd Akin.
Nor did much change between Bush I and Romney, in terms of the party platform on abortion or presidential candidates’ acceptance of it. In 2000, for example, the AP reported that George W. Bush declined to reconcile the dissonance between his stated views and that of the platform: “Bush believes abortion should remain legal in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman — exceptions not specified in the platform — but he chose not to challenge the party’s social conservatives on the issue.” There were still pro-choice Republicans putting up a fight at that point, but they were outvoted in their attempts to either take abortion out or note “recognition and respect” on both sides.
In 2008, McCain faced the same dilemma, but he also didn’t bother to fight it. (Also, as Romney has with Ryan, McCain chose a running mate with a more consistent view on abortion rights than himself.) The New York Times noted back then that “McCain in fact did little to push for the exceptions, and told Glamour on July 30 that he had ‘not gotten into the platform discussions.’”
Abortion planks in party platforms are not necessarily immutable things. In fact, that same year, Democrats removed the Clinton-era “safe, legal and rare” language on abortion, which many pro-choicers have pointed out stigmatizes women who need abortions. But for latter-day Republicans, abortion and the broader regulation of sexuality, including limiting access to contraception, have become such defining issues that they are basically untouchable.
Here is the language, according to CNN, that Republicans have just adopted: ”Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
There’s been some talk that this represents a wholesale adoption of “personhood” language — meaning an obsession with an unimplanted fertilized egg that would carry such a ban over to hormonal birth control and the IUD — but the language is vague, probably intentionally so. Over the past 40 years, the label “Human Life Amendment” has been slapped on some pretty disparate language introduced in Congress, from “A right to abortion is not secured by this Constitution. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to restrict and prohibit abortions,” to a more expansive version stipulating that “abortion means the intentional destruction of unborn human life, which life begins at the moment of fertilization.”
The fact that Republicans are no longer even struggling over this point, except for maybe in how far they want to go in defining birth control or fertility treatments as abortion, shows how complete the social conservative takeover has been. Back in 2000, Phyllis Schlafly said of pro-choice Republican activists, ”They’re losers.” She’s right. She won.
Irin Carmon is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @irincarmon or email her at email@example.com. More Irin Carmon.
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Two-for-one for Everyone — West Wind Solano Twin Drive-In, Concord, Calif. This family-friendly attraction with several spots across the U.S. (including California, Nevada and Arizona) prides itself on offering first-run double features (save for premiere events) on the cheap — which is quite the deal, considering their 65-foot screens are among the biggest in the biz. And if you have great car speakers, even better: squawk boxes of old have been replaced with Dolby quality audio piped through your car’s FM stereo.
For the Four-legged Friendly — Warwick Drive-In, Warwick, N.Y. Northeast city slickers looking for a place to watch their favorite movie stars under the stars need only veer six miles east of Vernon, N.J. What began as a family affair in 1950 has since become a seasonal institution offering rural and urban (and pet!) audiences two movies for the price of one on any of its three giant screens.
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See Stars Collide — Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, Dearborn, Mich. Open year-round (unlike many of its surviving contemporaries), this five-screen staple of the Midwest known as the “largest drive-in in the world” plays host for up to 3,000 cars on any given night. And if the double-feature doesn’t hold your attention, relax; you’ve got the best (car)seat in the house for the occasional overhead meteor shower.
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A Hole (Lot of Fun) in One — Wellfleet Drive-In, Wellfleet, Mass.Built in 1957 and still offering original mono sound boxes for those looking for an authentic experience (or not, as FM stereo is available as well), the summer-exclusive theater hosts double features of first-runs on its giant 100’ x 44’ screen. Come for the movies, stay for the mini-golf and flea market (on select days).
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Go Big or Drive Home — Bengies Drive-In, Baltimore, Md. The only thing bigger than Bengies’ prolific history (57 years and going) is its main attraction — boasting the biggest theater screen in the U.S. at 6,240 square feet. That’s 52’ x 120’ of pure anamorphic presentation. Complementing its time capsule of a snack bar (unchanged since ’56), previews old and new occupy the venue’s old-timey intermissions between features.
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Proof That Film is Forever — Shankweilers, Orefield, Pa. While we’re on superlative street, consider stopping at this roadside treasure: America’s oldest drive-in. Operating since 1934, it may not have the frills and pony rides of nearby Becky’s Drive-In, but it’s defied hurricanes and the wear and tear of time. Worth the one-hour drive from Philly.
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The Gritty Hollywood Reboot — Corral Drive-In, Guymon, Okla. Like a slasher movie menace that died (several times) in the ’80s only to be rebooted years after, the long-vacant Corral Drive-In was resurrected and restored in 2009, providing big entertainment at a nominal fee. And if the $6 adult admission doesn’t make you feel like a kid again, the venue’s inflatable bouncers most definitely will.
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Hop the Healthy Highway — Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, N.J. Less than an hour’s trip from Atlantic City, New Jersey’s only drive-in offers the best of both worlds — old school aesthetic outfitted with modern tech and healthier food choices to boot. Open seasonally, with first features beginning around dusk.
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Bring Your Backyard to the Big Screen — Starlight Six Drive-In, Atlanta, Ga. As much a backdoor barbecue as it is a night out at the movies, this six-screen Atlanta drive-in encourages what most in the theater biz forbid: bringing your own food and grilling it. Those looking to add a hip twist of the theatrical to their Labor Day getaway need only stock the cooler and pack some brats or burgers for the Starlight’s annual “Drive-Invasion,” which features a hot-rod show, live music, and B-movies galore.
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And really, what better way is there to cruise the nostalgia highway of old Hollywood than in a MINI Roadster? Allowing all the headroom one needs to see the stars on the screen and those directly above, the 2013 convertible goes the distance where it counts — on the road (obviously), not to mention the discerning driver’s wallet. Never mind that its fun-size frame also makes motoring in and out of tight traffic all the more enjoyable (or parking in even tighter spots for cozy romantics all the more convenient).
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