If NARAL Pro-Choice America has a man of the year award, it should go to Todd Akin.
Not only did the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri express his position on abortion in the most discrediting way possible, he threatens GOP hopes to take the Senate. He could effectively preserve a Senate Democratic majority that will sooner desecrate the American flag than restrict abortion in any manner.
Predictably, the Akin flap created a media feeding frenzy. The Democrats and the press travel in a pack, but never more so than when a cultural issue is involved.
From a neutral perspective, if one side of a debate is "extreme," the opposite side is equally "extreme." It would never even occur to the media to apply this standard to abortion. Barack Obama could favor denying legal protection to babies after they are born and the press wouldn't bat an eyelash. In fact, he did.
In the Illinois legislature, he opposed the "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act" three times. The bill recognized babies born after attempted abortions as persons and required doctors to give them care. About a year after his final vote against the bill, Obama gave his famous 2004 Democratic Convention speech extolling post-partisan moderation.
But he couldn't bring himself to protect infants brutalized and utterly alone in some medical facility. Some moderation. The federal version of the bill that he opposed in Illinois passed the U.S. Senate unanimously. Some post-partisanship.
President Obama is an extremist on abortion. He has never supported any meaningful restriction on it, and never will.
He opposed a partial-birth abortion bill in Illinois, even as the federal version passed the House and the Senate easily and was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003. He arrived in the U.S. Senate in time to denounce the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the ban.
In 2007, he told the Planned Parenthood Action Fund that his first act as president would be signing the Freedom of Choice Act. The act would enshrine in federal law a right to abortion more far-reaching than in Roe v. Wade. His support shows how it is impossible to stake out a position further to his left on the issue, unless, perhaps, you are performing abortions yourself.
In May, a bipartisan majority of the House, including 20 Democrats, voted to ban abortion for the purpose of sex selection. A White House spokeswoman objected: "The government should not intrude in medical decisions or private family matters in this way." In other words, gender-based discrimination is OK — so long as it results in an abortion.
As a general matter, Todd Akin's position is closer to the American mainstream than Obama's. The public doesn't agree with Akin on the hardest cases, but most people oppose most abortions. In a Gallup survey in 2011, about 60 percent of people said that abortion should be legal in few or no circumstances.
Gallup usually doesn't find much of a gender gap on abortion, although there is one in this year's survey. Fifty-three percent of men identified themselves as "pro-life," and 46 percent of women. Even so, women were evenly split, with 44 percent calling themselves "pro-choice."
Even as he stakes out from the outer edge of the abortion debate, the president tries to sound soothing: He wants to discourage it. Uh-huh. He is as serious about discouraging abortion as he was about opposing gay marriage up until a few months ago. Which is to say laughably disingenuous.
The fact is that abortion is at the heart of contemporary liberalism. Roe v. Wade is liberalism's Great Writ. Nancy Pelosi considers the right to abortion more sacrosanct than the First Amendment. She would never tamper with the former; she wants to amend the latter to allow for more campaign-finance regulations.
If NARAL ever honored Todd Akin, it would be tongue-in-cheek. The man really deserving its gratitude is President Obama. He believes extremism in defense of the widest possible access to abortion is no vice.
Rich Lowry is a syndicated columnist. He can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.