Friday, during the first morning of the platform discussions, a verbal brawl broke out between pro-life and pro-choice contingents within the committee a clash that by extension throws a revealing light on the abortion debate within the party as a whole. The family subcommittee, which considers the particularly prickly abortion issue, voted twice (10-3 and 11-3) against amendments that would have changed the language of the platform to accommodate pro-choice members of the party as well as an alteration negating the party's opposition to abortion in the case of incest, rape or extreme danger to a woman's life.
The battle lines were drawn early: Henry Hyde, a vigorous pro-life supporter, was up in arms over suggestions that the platform language might be toned down to acknowledge a spectrum of opinion within the party. He also bristled at the idea of allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest. "The sins of the father should not be visited upon the unborn child," he said.
For their part, abortion rights supporters were resorting to hyperbole, accusing the pro-life crowd of "silencing" an entire wing of the party. One pro-choice party activist predicted that floods of pro-choice voters would defect to the Democrats if the GOP refused to consider a range of opinions.
And in a characteristically combative moment, Phyllis Schlafly, wearing her Family Research Council mantle, railed at a group of reporters that the pro-choice party members were "using the media to make a splash because they know you guys will write about them. Then they use that for fund-raising."
The debate over platform language will continue through Friday afternoon, and with any luck the final version will be ready by Monday, poised for full delegate approval. In the meantime, here's a friendly reminder for GOP platform committee members: This is supposed to be an incredibly boring convention, with little if any news value. So maybe you all should just work on toning down those "opinions" of yours, unclench your fists, and for goodness' sake, smile.