“Rape remark could haunt Mourdock,” predicted the front-page headline in Wednesday's News-Sentinel.
Just below it was this headline, in much smaller type: “Court blocks defunding of Planned Parenthood.”
Guess which “extremist” act has generated national headlines, late-night jokes and almost universal condemnation ever since?
That's a rhetorical question, of course. Viewers knew immediately that the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate's debate description of rape-induced pregnancy as “something God intended” would create a feeding frenzy not only in the left-leaning media but in his and numerous other campaigns as well.
But apart from presuming to speak for God (which is something politicians should avoid, even though Scripture does indeed say God forms life in the womb), why did Mourdock's words cause so many Democrats to attack him and so many Republicans to shun him?
“Outrageous and demeaning to women,” explained Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee, reflecting the widespread desire in her party to exploit Mourdock as just another example of the GOP's “war on women.”
It's understandable that someone could genuinely believe Mourdock implied that something good could result from what he described as a “horrible” act. But his position – like it or not – is far more morally, medically and intellectually consistent and honest than that of many of his supposedly more enlightened critics.
Politically, it would have been safer for Mourdock to make an exception for rape in his pro-life stance – a circumstance that represents less than 1 percent of all abortions. But during the waning minutes of the debate Tuesday in New Albany, he essentially said this: If you believe human life begins at conception and is in fact ultimately God's creation, children created as the result of rape should not face the death penalty for something their father did, however evil.
Again, it's understandable that someone pregnant with a rapist's child might see things differently. But that hardly makes what Mourdock said “demeaning to women.” Polls regularly show that the majority of Americans are pro-life, with 20 percent (according to a Gallup Poll) – including some women, presumably – wanting to outlaw abortion in all cases.
Mourdock's problem is not really his beliefs, but the fact that he is a moral absolutist in an increasingly relativistic world.
Although there may be a few people willing to ignore basic science and conclude that a “fetus” is neither living, human nor biologically distinct, what is the “pro-choice” position but an example of the most gutless kind of moral relativism? In his recent debate with Rep. Paul Ryan, for example, Vice President Joe Biden claimed that, as a practicing Catholic, he personally opposes abortion but is unwilling to impose his view on others. But the Catholic Church has condemned abortion as the intrinsically evil taking of a human life, and even Biden's own bishop has rejected his statement.
Millions of people are clearly more comfortable with Biden's libertarian hypocrisy than with Mourdock's black-and-white inflexibility. And that view is reflected in the press, which clearly found Mourdock's words extraordinary while giving a collective shrug to the fact that taxpayers in Indiana and other states are being compelled by the courts to fund the nation's leading provider of abortions against their will.
Likewise, 30-year-old college student Sandra Fluke is portrayed as a feminist heroine for demanding free birth control from her Catholic university under Obamacare, while religious organizations are criticized for questioning the state's obvious intrusion into church matters.
As for the left's supposed concern for women, that was apparently illustrated by Obama campaign ads urging them to “Vote like you lady parts depend on it” and comparing a young woman's first voting experience to her loss of virginity.
In a society in which millions of people consider birth control a sacrament and abortion the Holy Grail, some women will believe such nonsense and pro-life politicians will have their positions mocked and, if possible, misconstrued. Why Mourdock made it easier for them may be an indictment of his judgment or common sense, but it hardly makes him a misogynistic extremist.
Most of the people attacking him surely know that, but simply don't care.
So which is the greater offense?