While Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan's national public identity has been more fiscal hawk than culture warrior, Ryan has long been a strong opponent of abortion rights who believes that life begins at conception.
And he has pursued and supported legislation that backs up those socially conservative views.
The Todd Akin episode invited a closer look at Ryan's record on abortion and social issues. While Ryan has flatly rejected Akin's reference to "legitimate rape," Ryan's name and his vote are tied to instances in which the term "forcible rape" appeared in legislation. The bills sought to place limits on access to abortion or health insurance coverage for an abortion.
Three years ago, the then-39-year-old congressman co-sponsored an abortion-related amendment called "Limitations on Abortion Mandates."
That proposed amendment was blocked in what was a Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee. Ryan and only one co-sponsor, Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas, proposed a change to health-care legislation that would have required health insurance cover abortion services.
The Ryan-Johnson failed amendment did specify limited exceptions, permitting abortion coverage including when the life of the mother is at stake and in line 16 of the proposed text "... unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of forcible rape or incest."
More recently and more widely covered, Ryan was among a much larger group of 186 co-sponsors that included Akin of H.R. 5939, "To prohibit taxpayer funded abortions and to provide for conscience protections...."
Again, the text of the 2010 bill, typically written by committee senior staff, included nearly the same wording as his July 2009 amendment with the term "forcible rape." The language in lines 15 and 16 reads: "(1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of forcible rape, or incest with a minor...."
Aides to the Romney-Ryan campaign say the congressman has been "clear and consistent that rape is rape." Ryan did not defend the term "forcible," saying this week, "There is no splitting hairs over rape."
Asked why Ryan backed measures that referred to "forcible rape," advisers say Ryan has supported other abortion-related bills that have not contained that language.
For broader context, the term "forcible rape" appears to have roots in the legal community, where it has been used by prosecutors to distinguish that crime from "statutory rape," which involves a minor unable to legally consent or a person who lacks mental capacity for legal consent.
*** UPDATE *** The Romney-Ryan campaign points out that Ryan did not initiate the "Limitations on Abortion Mandates" amendment that included the term "forcible rape." That amendment failed to get out of committee in July, 2009 during the health care debate. The amendment was proposed by and carried the name of a more senior Republican colleague, Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas. Ryan joined Johnson in offering the amendment. Ryan was identified in the ea rlier post as a "co-sponsor" of the amendment, but that isn't technically the correct term.
That said, Ryan did vote in support of the amendment with all other Republicans on the committee. Further, the measure also had the support of three Democrats, Reps. Pomeroy, Tanner and Pascrell. The amendment was defeated.