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In Context: What J.D. Vance said about rape, abortion and ‘inconvenience’

Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance face off in an Ohio Senate debate on Oct. 10, 2022. (Screenshot) Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance face off in an Ohio Senate debate on Oct. 10, 2022. (Screenshot)

Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance face off in an Ohio Senate debate on Oct. 10, 2022. (Screenshot)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman October 12, 2022

If Your Time is short

  • In a September 2021 interview, J.D. Vance was asked whether anti-abortion laws should include an exception for rape and incest victims. He replied: “Two wrongs don't make a right. At the end of day we are talking about an unborn baby. What kind of society do we want to have? A society that looks at unborn babies as inconveniences to be discarded?”
     
  • ​When asked again about rape and incest exceptions for abortion, Vance said: “The question portrays a certain presumption that is wrong. It’s not whether a woman should be forced to bring a child to term, it’s whether a child should be allowed to live, even though the circumstances of that child’s birth are somehow inconvenient or a problem to the society.”

In the first debate of Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said Republican challenger J.D. Vance holds a "very extreme position" against abortion.

"J.D., you called rape ‘inconvenient.’ Right?" Ryan said during the Oct. 10 U.S. Senate debate sponsored by Fox 8 News Cleveland. "Rape is not inconvenient. It is a significant tragedy."

Vance disputed Ryan’s statement.

"First of all, I did not call rape ‘inconvenient,’" Vance said. "Congressman Ryan knows that’s not true." 

We reviewed Vance’s full comments in context and found that what he said in a 2021 interview about rape and abortion was less clear than either candidate suggested during the debate.

Vance did not directly say "rape is inconvenient." But when he was asked whether laws should allow people to get abortions if they were victims of rape or incest, he suggested that society should not view a pregnancy or birth resulting from rape or incest as "inconvenient."

At the time, some news coverage of the exchange focused on Vance’s use of the words "inconvenient" and "inconvenience" in response to a question about rape and incest.

Vance and Ryan will face off in a second debate Oct. 17. The race is one of a handful of competitive Senate races that could determine which party controls the Senate in 2023.

Vance’s statements about rape and abortion stem from 2021 interview

The Ryan campaign told us the source of Ryan’s claim was a September 2021 interview Vance gave to Curtis Jackson of Spectrum News 1 in Columbus. 

In it, Jackson asked Ryan his opinion on the Texas law that bans doctors from providing an abortion after detecting a fetal heartbeat. The law has no exceptions for rape or incest.

Here’s the exchange, with the relevant portions in bold:

"I think in Texas they’re trying to make it easier for unborn babies to be born," Vance said. "There is a view, common among leaders of the Democratic Party, that babies deserve no legal protections in the womb. That is a common view in the Democratic Party, and all I’m saying is that view’s wrong. It is."

Jackson asked Vance whether anti-abortion laws should include exceptions for rape or incest. 

Vance replied: "Look, I think two wrongs don't make a right. At the end of day, we are talking about an unborn baby. What kind of society do we want to have? A society that looks at unborn babies as inconveniences to be discarded?"

Jackson tried to get Vance to comment directly about exceptions, asking "should a woman be forced to carry a child to term after she has been a victim of incest or rape?"

Vance replied: "My view on this has been very clear and I think the question betrays a certain presumption that is wrong. It’s not whether a woman should be forced to bring a child to term, it’s whether a child should be allowed to live, even though the circumstances of that child’s birth are somehow inconvenient or a problem to the society. The question really, to me, is about the baby. We want women to have opportunities, we want women to have choices, but, above all, we want women and young boys in the womb to have the right to life. Right now our society doesn’t afford that and I think it's a tragedy and I think we can do better."

The two candidates clearly diverge on this issue.

Ryan was against abortion early in his congressional career but announced his support for abortion rights in 2015. He disagreed with the Supreme Court decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, which established federally protected access to legal abortion.

Vance said on his campaign website that he is "100 percent pro-life" and believes abortion has "turned our society into a place where we see children as an inconvenience to be thrown away rather than a blessing to be nurtured." During the Oct. 10 debate, Vance said that the 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped should have a right to an abortion if she and her family want one.

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RELATED: All of our fact-checks about abortion

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Our Sources

Fox 8 News Cleveland, U.S. Senate debate, Oct. 10, 2022

Spectrum News, Interview with J.D. Vance, Sept. 22, 2021

The Independent, JD Vance calls pregnancy from rape and incest 'inconvenient' as he backs Texas abortion law, Sept. 24, 2021

Cleveland Plain Dealer, J.D. Vance largely avoids pivot to center in race after culture-war heavy Republican primary, Sept. 7, 2022

Columbus Dispatch, Where do Ohio U.S. Senate candidates J.D. Vance, Tim Ryan stand on abortion rights? July 11, 2022

The Washington Post, Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance argues against need for rape and incest exceptions in abortion laws, Sept. 24, 2021

The Daily Beast, J.D. Vance Defends Texas Abortion Ban, Calls Rape ‘Inconvenient’ Sept. 23, 2021

WFMJ, Ryan, Vance campaigns agree to WFMJ debate on October 17th, Sept. 26, 2022

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Rep. Tim Ryan makes it formal: He's gone from 'anti-abortion' to 'pro-choice' Jan. 28, 2015

Email interview, Izzi Levy, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio campaign spokesperson, Oct. 11, 2022

Email interview, Luke Schroeder, J.D. Vance campaign spokesperson, Oct. 11, 2022

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In Context: What J.D. Vance said about rape, abortion and ‘inconvenience’