Trigger warning for rape dismissal, extreme misogyny.
So I’ve been walking around angry for the past couple of days. Undoubtedly you’ve heard the latest pearl of idiocy to drop from a member of God’s Own Party:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
Republican Congressman Todd Akin has decided to impart his second-hand medical wisdom on the rest of America, and undoubtedly legislate based on it. First of all, no Mr. Akin you absolutely did not get this ‘understanding’ from doctors. Nobody who has had a conversation about reproduction with any medical professional who isn’t deep in the anti-choice* camp could possibly walk away believing that the human body can recognize rape and stop conception from happening. One would think that nobody who has taken a high school sex-ed course could possibly believe this kind of mythology, but since Todd Akin is likely opposed to sex education as well, there is no inconsistency.
Second, his comments are very telling of his belief that women lie about sex to get abortions, and that pregnancy due to rape is just an excuse to be a slut. He issued what the media called an “apology” in which he said he “misspoke”. Biased as my news source intake is, I have no idea how this statement played in the general public, but the fact is that it’s a lie. Todd Akin did not misspeak – he used words that honestly described what he thinks about the female body and about rape. His statement clearly reveals that he thinks the problem is that he used the wrong words. The problem is not the words (as horrible as they are) – the problem is the deep ignorance and antipathy toward women** and female sexuality that those words reveal. His ‘clarification’ of his position demonstrates this perfectly:
Arguing that he misplaced the word “legitimate,” Akin explained — during a follow up interview with Dana Loesch — that he meant to argue that women sometimes lie about being raped:
AKIN: You know, Dr. Willkie has just released a statement and part of his letter, I think he just stated it very clearly. He said, of course Akin never used the word legitimate to refer to the rapist, but to false claims like those made in Roe v. Wade and I think that simplifies it….. There isn’t any legitimate rapist…. [I was] making the point that there were people who use false claims, like those that basically created Roe v. Wade.
Todd Akin thinks that the problem with an exemption for rape in a total abortion ban is problematic because women will lie about how they got pregnant. This is not a matter of indelicate phrasing – this is a matter of an absolutely horrendous view of women.
It should be noted that there should be no need for an “exemption” for rape. Abortion should be safe, legal, and easy to access. The fact that the debate over abortion has swung this far to the extreme that the “liberal position” is ‘at least let the rape victims get one’ is evidence that the United States has gone completely insane.
Third, and this is perhaps the most important thing to notice about his statement, notice who doesn’t get mentioned in Mr. Akin’s comments – women. He talks about the rapist. He talks about ‘the female body’. He talks about the ‘child’ (which is ridiculous – an embryo and a child are not the same fucking thing). The person who is completely absent from the discussion of policies that legislate who rich white men will allow to have abortions seemingly is the woman who will be forced to gestate and deliver the spawn of her rapist. You’re free to infer your own conclusion from that omission.
Republican sources, including Mitt Romney, have distanced themselves from Akin’s comments. Happily, news organizations are not shying away from pointing out that Todd Akin’s position is identical to that of the Republican party:
Within hours of Akin’s remark, journalists were producing detailed accounts of similarly absurd comments on abortion, rape and birth control from GOP officials and pundits, all of which showed a complete callousness toward science and women’s autonomy. To put Akin-gate in context, here are eight of the worst that we at AlterNet could find, past and present, but the full gamut of this sort of talk goes far, far beyond the following short list.
This is the issue. Todd Akin wants to close a ‘loophole’ that would let women lie about being “forcibly” raped (date rape, coercive rape, statutory rape, marital rape, chemically-induced rape – none of these things seem to factor into his argument) in order to get abortions, rather than having to bring an unwanted pregnancy to term (as a punishment for being such a slut as to let the Aspirin drop from between her knees). As awful as this position is, and as many failures of both compassion and logic that are required to arrive at such a belief, he is representative of a major political party. He is not a fringe within his party – he is the mainstream. The fact that his party is scrambling to condemn his phrasing and not his atrocious beliefs is strongly suggestive of the fact that they do not understand why he’s wrong, and would prefer to put him in a box long enough to win an election that would permit them to back their horrible positions with the force of law.
Todd Akin didn’t misspeak. He is a sincere believer, and put those beliefs to words. And that terrifies me.
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*Some people whine about the use of the term ‘anti-choice’ rather than calling them ‘pro-life’, the way they self-identify. I do not use this term simply for political reasons – it is actually the only accurate term to describe their beliefs and the aims of their policies.
**Interestingly, since trans men are likely at a higher risk of being raped than cis women, the burden of Mr. Akin’s beliefs fall disproportionately heavily on trans men. I haven’t heard this position articulated yet.