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Gov. McDonnell: GOP abortion plank won’t cost Romney voters

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the Republican convention platform committee, dismissed concerns that the GOP’s anti-abortion rights plank would cost Romney independent voters in November. 

“I don't think it's any surprise that the Republican Party is the party that embraces the dignity and sanctity of life,” he said on ABC’s “This Week." "We're a pro-life party. The Democrats are pro-choice.”

McDonnell was asked to respond to an op-ed published Sunday by GOP Florida Gov. Charlie Crist endorsing President Obama and warning that the Republican party had moved “to the extreme right” on many issues. 

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“Look no further than the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion even for rape victims,” wrote Crist.

Rep. Todd Akin sparked a firestorm when he recently said that “legitimate rape” victims rarely became pregnant. Akin has rebuffed pressure from GOP leaders, including presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, to drop his bid to unseat Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). 

Democrats have sought to tie Akin to Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who co-sponsored an anti-abortion rights bill with Akin.

On Sunday, McDonnell said that independent voters would not be distracted by these issues and would focus instead on Obama’s economic record. 

“What matters in this race, George [Stephanopoulos], as everybody knows, is how we're going to get the greatest country on earth back to work and out of debt. And you look at Mitt Romney's record on reducing unemployment in Massachusetts. President Obama has increased it,” said McDonnell. 

McDonnell was also asked why the GOP platform does not include exceptions for rape. 

Gov. Romney has said he supports exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.

McDonnell, though, said that the language in the plank had remained unchanged for decades.

“That's been there for 30 years. There are multiple human life amendments that were introduced 20, 30 years ago. Some of them had exceptions, some of them didn't,” he said.

McDonnell said the party was not making a judgment on a rape exception and would leave such decisions to Congress and “ultimately to the states.”

“It's a general proposition to say we support human life. The rest of those details are up to the states and the people respectively,” he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the chairman of the Democratic National Convention, knocked the GOP platform on abortion as “beyond the mainstream.”

“Maybe it's been there for 30 years. But it's time to take it out. The idea that we put in our U.S. Constitution an amendment that says that women can't get an abortion even in the case of incest and rape is way beyond the mainstream,” he said.