The Romney-Ryan exception presents far greater challenges because it is not simply about insurance coverage. The only issue under the Hyde Amendment is who pays for an abortion for a woman on Medicaid, not whether any abortion for any woman can happen. Thus, women are exponentially more likely to seek the exception under the Romney-Ryan plan than they have under the Hyde Amendment. And those opposing abortions would be equally more likely to contest those exceptions to prevent what they view as murder.

So these are hardly tongue-in-cheek questions. Nor is the broader question, which only the late Tim Russert ever regularly asked anti-choice politicians: With Romney and Ryan planning to make any abortions that are not subject to their rape or incest exceptions a federal crime, what is the specific prison term they would impose on offending women? And if they would penalize only doctors, wouldn’t that undermine the enforceability of the law as well as their stated principle that abortion is murder?


Steven Brill , the author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight To Fix America’s Schools, has written for magazines including New York, The New Yorker, Time, Harper's, and The New York Times Magazine. He founded and ran Court TV, The American Lawyer magazine, ten regional legal newspapers, and Brill's Content magazine. He also teaches journalism at Yale, where he founded the Yale Journalism Initiative.