Yesterday, Missouri Republican Todd Akin, who currently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives and is the party’s U.S. Senate nominee this year, was interviewed by St. Louis’ local Fox affiliate about his candidacy. During the interview, Akin was asked if he believed that abortion should be available to women who are raped. Akin gave the following widely-reported answer:
Well, you know, uh, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, ‘Well, how do you – how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question.’ It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
Akin’s comments spread like wildfire across the Internet. Hours later, Akin apologized, claiming that he “misspoke”, which is code for I’m not sorry for what I believe, I’m only sorry that I wasn’t more clever with my choice of words.
Akin has once again given us a glimpse inside the ultraconservative minds of far right-wing Republicans who object to women making their own reproductive health decisions. He did not misspeak. He was describing his beliefs – beliefs that are shared by other uncompromising opponents of women’s rights.
People unused to this kind of extreme rhetoric might wonder whether Tea Party favorite Todd Akin was absent from health class on the day that human reproduction was covered. Or perhaps he never took a health class… it’s optional in Missouri. Local school boards can decide whether to offer it or not.
And when teaching about sex, schools must stress abstinence as the only completely effective way to avoid pregnancy. (Of course, practicing abstinence does not guarantee that a woman won’t become pregnant if she is raped).
To describe Akin’s comments as offensive would be putting it lightly. Consider the words Akin used. The phrase “legitimate rape” stands out. What’s that supposed to mean? That some women who are raped are victims, but others aren’t?
As President Obama said this morning, “Rape is rape.” But radical conservatives don’t think that way. If you’re a woman… and you are raped… and you get pregnant… well, tough. If you are raped, and get pregnant, but don’t want to torture yourself for another nine months carrying a pregnancy you didn’t plan for to term, you have to suck it up because that embryo is more important that you are.
This is the same Todd Akin who cosponsored H.R. 3 with Paul Ryan, wanting to add “forcible” to the definition of rape to further narrow the exceptions allowed for federal funding for abortion. Todd Akin obviously likes his adjectives when it comes to rape, because there are so many ways to describe it.
To add insult to injury, this guy is on the U.S. House’s Science and Technology Committee. There is no science that backs up his view of how a woman’s body responds after being raped. In fact, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists considered Akin’s comments so egregious that they felt compelled to weigh in with a statement on the matter:
Recent remarks by a member of the U.S. House of Representatives suggesting that “women who are victims of ‘legitimate rape’ rarely get pregnant” are medically inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous.
Each year in the US, 10,000–15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest. An unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term. There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”
A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (i.e., pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.
Any person forced to submit to sexual intercourse against his or her will is the victim of rape, a heinous crime. There are no varying degrees of rape. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and insulting and minimizes the serious physical and psychological repercussions for all victims of rape.
Akin also seems to like the technology that gives us vaginal ultrasounds, even though he doesn’t understand how requiring women to have one before a legal abortion is a deplorable invasion of privacy.
Of course, other Republicans are doing their best to distance themselves from Akin. “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement,” the Romney campaign was quick to declare. “A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”
Did the campaign check with Mr. Ryan or ultraconservative organizations like Focus on the Family before issuing that statement?
Voters of the State of Missouri will certainly have a clear choice for U.S. Senate this fall, as Todd Akin has shown no sign that he is going to fold under pressure from the Republican establishment. Will Claire McCaskill benefit? It’s hard to say at this point. More women vote than men, and Missouri women will surely be reminded of Todd Akin’s misspeaking before they fill out their ballots in October and November.
We should all keep in mind that Paul Ryan and many other Republicans think like this guy. They just hasn’t been so brutally honest.