Rep. Tim Ryan Flips Abortion Stance In Powerful Op-Ed After, Well, Talking To Women

It can be hard to fully understand an issue until you've spoken with the people it affects. That's why we don't blame Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) for changing his mind about women's reproductive rights after spending some time, well, talking to women about their reproductive rights. After years of opposing abortions, Ryan announced in an op-ed that he had become pro-choice.

In his op-ed, published in the Akron Beacon Journal, Ryan explains that he was raised Catholic and always thought of himself as pro-life, starting from a young age. His mind was opened, he says, by experiences he has recently had as a congressman in talking to women across the country. He describes the various situations that he has come to understand as "difficult" with "no clear path to take":

I have sat with women from Ohio and across the nation and heard them talk about their varying experiences: abusive relationships, financial hardship, health scares, rape and incest. There are endless stories about women in troubling situations — the woman who became pregnant and has a violent spouse; the woman who lost her job and is unable to afford another child; or the underage girl worried she’ll be thrown out of her house if she reveals her pregnancy.

Ryan continues, writing that his new acquaintances have taught him how important it is for women to have independent control over their own bodies.

These women gave me a better understanding of how complex and difficult certain situations can become. And while there are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: the heavy hand of government must not make this decision for women and families.

And he closes with this wonderfully simple, clear line:

I have come to believe that we must trust women and families — not politicians — to make the best decision for their lives.

Snaps to Ryan for admitting that his political views have changed since he first took office as a young, staunch abortion opponent. Making a public statement about such a dramatic one-eighty was the responsible thing for him to do. And adhering to his responsibilities as a representative is important to Ryan, as he said he would be "abandoning [his] own conscience and judgment" if he were to continue to publicly support a position he no longer held.

Maybe Ryan's decision to share his change of heart with the world was made easier by the fact that he is a Democrat, and an increasing number of Democrats in Congress support abortion. But Ryan is surely not alone in his flip-flop: here are a few other (male) politicians who have changed their stance on reproductive rights in the past few years.

Mitt Romney

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Romney's position on abortion is volatile, to say the least. In 1994, Romney insisted that abortions should be safe and legal, even though he was personally opposed. In 2002, he stood with abortion rights advocates — and then, suddenly, he was "adamantly pro-life," condemning contraceptives as "abortion pills," which they are not. (Those exist in their own right, and they work pretty well.) Though Romney's switch wasn't in the same direction as Ryan's, his change of opinion is one of the most dramatic among prominent politicians and has to be on this list.

Al Gore

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Al Gore has a simple name and a simple mission (to save the world from global warming), but his position on reproductive rights is a little fuzzier. Gore would have you think he has never changed his mind about abortion, but rhetoric is a tricky thing. In the 1980s, Gore described himself as pro-choice but didn't think federal money should be used to fund abortions.

But in 2000, opponent Senator Bill Bradley said Gore wasn't really a friend to the pro-choicers. Instead, Bradley insisted Gore's refusal to fund abortions with federal dollars meant that he had changed his mind and didn't really support abortion rights. Gore said he "always supported a woman's right to choose," but didn't acknowledge where the money would come from if A Woman did choose to get an abortion. Sigh.

Cory Gardner

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Congressman Gardner (D-Colo.) has not decided to become pro-choice (yet), but his sudden turnaround on "personhood" efforts came as a surprise to many Americans. "I was not right," Gardner said in 2014 in an interview with the Denver Post. "I can't support personhood now. I can't support personhood going forward." Gardner had previously supported efforts to define personhood — the moment a fetus really becomes a living being — as the moment of conception. But when he realized that the measures he was supporting would also restrict certain forms of contraception, he quickly backpedaled.

"The fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position," Gardner continued. "I don't get everything right the first time. There are far too many politicians out there who take the wrong position and stick with it and never admit that they should do something different." We couldn't agree more.

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