Ryan and ‘Women’s Issues’

by Ramesh Ponnuru

On Saturday, Buzzfeed ran a story by one of its staffers, Amy Odell, titled “Five Things You Need to Know About Paul Ryan’s Stance on Women’s Issues.”

The first item: “He supports the Sanctity of Human Life Act” (emphasis in original). Odell wrote that the bill “seeks to ban all abortions, including in instances of rape and incest.” Ryan may, for all I know, believe that abortion should be illegal with exceptions only to save a mother’s life. But has he really co-sponsored a bill to effect this policy? No. The bill declares that fertilization marks the beginning of a human life and then “affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.” In other words, it doesn’t ban anything: It merely affirms that legislatures have the authority to protect unborn life. If Odell wishes to argue that a legislature moved by the convictions of the bill must, to be consistent, ban abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest, she can do so. It’s not in the bill.

The fifth item: “He supports a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage based on personal beliefs. Ryan co-sponsored the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act of 2012, introduced by fellow Republican pro-life Wisconsin representative James Sensenbrenner in July. The bill would allow employers in public and private sectors to deny women birth control coverage if they had a moral or religious objection to contraception. It seeks to undermine the compromise Obama reached with religious groups on this issue, allowing them to opt out of contraception coverage in favor of insurance companies providing it instead” (emphasis in original).

This is grossly misleading. The bill restores the status quo that has been in effect in the U.S. from the dawn of the republic until this month: Federal law has always allowed employers to refuse to cover procedures they consider objectionable. Odell makes it sound as though Ryan had backed some novel, aggressive move. Nor is it true that Obama “reached a compromise with religious groups.” Obama’s original policy is the only one on the books, and the administration has not declared its support for any modification to it that is acceptable to the vast majority of religious groups that objected to it.

There’s only one thing you need to know about Odell’s article: It’s slanted to the left.

Update: Buzzfeed has corrected the first item. The fifth one is still misleading.