The platform panel of the Republican National Committee voted to propose a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion without specific exceptions for rape or incest, a position at odds with presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.
The decisions in Tampa, as delegates began making their way to Florida for next week's Republican National Convention, are a reminder that, despite months of effort by Romney to project party unity, he is out of step with his party's most committed activists.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the RNC's Committee on Resolutions, said the platform "reflects the views of the grassroots leaders of the Republican Party."
Romney's opponents during the nominating campaign complained that the former Massachusetts was not sufficiently conservative.
The platform committee also adopted a position on Medicare in line with Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who supports turning the federal health insurance program for seniors into a voucher-like system.
Romney opposes abortion, but he supports allowing exceptions in cases of rape. He also supports allowing seniors to opt to buy private insurance, but he has not fully embraced Ryan's more aggressive approach.
The platform is set to be adopted Monday by the Republican National Committee. Romney is set to be nominated for president at the Republican National Convention, which begins Monday.
"The committee and Gov. Romney agree on the main things involving the economy," platform committee member Russ Walker of Oregon said. "There are some subtle differences."
Committee member Barbara Ann Fenton of Rhode Island voted against the abortion plank. A supporter of legal abortion, she said the GOP risks marginalizing itself with younger voters by espousing positions she considers out of step with most Americans.
"If we seek tolerance on some of these social issues, it will lead to a stronger Republican Party," Fenton said.
National polls show a majority of Americans favor legal abortion in most cases. Likewise, a small minority of Americans say abortion should be illegal in most cases, according to Gallup.
A Gallup poll last year found that 75 percent of adults say abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest.
The RNC's proposed abortion language is the same as it's been since 1984. But this year, it comes as GOP officials called on Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., to quit his Senate bid after he made inflammatory comments about rape. Akin, asked in a local TV interview aired Sunday if he opposes abortion in cases of rape, said a woman's body is able to prevent pregnancy in what he called a "legitimate rape."
The party's platform says members of the GOP "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."
Romney's abortion decision is also at odds with Ryan, who opposes abortion except in instances where the life of the mother is at risk. That's closer in line with the Republican Party's official position.
A Ryan aide downplayed the difference. "He knows he is joining the Romney ticket and the Romney administration will reflect the views of the nominee," Ryan spokesman Michael Steel told reporters traveling with Ryan from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.
Ryan has voted for legislation that has included exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, another spokesman said.
The decision might have passed with little notice if not for Akin, whose comments drew intense criticism and quick calls for him to step aside.
Romney called for Akin to withdraw from his race for the Senate, but not until just two hours before a state-imposed deadline and after several GOP officials, including leading social conservatives, did first. Akin said he would stay in the race, and he now has until Sept. 25 to seek a court order to take his name off the ballot.
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