NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Republican Todd Akin’s offensive comments about rape draw widespread condemnation

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Speak­ing as a vic­tim of rape, I must say that to have some­one with that kind of view in a polit­i­cal office is an embar­rass­ment to this nation. Wow! Legit­i­mate? Rape is rape, and I am still deal­ing with the effects of it, even though it hap­pened years ago. Shame on you, Mr. Akin!

    # by Susan :: August 21st, 2012 at 4:48 AM
  2. # by Daniella K :: August 21st, 2012 at 10:50 AM