A legitimate Republican

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:

The mistaken notion that one’s body can somehow elude pregnancy when not aroused dates back centuriesand is still a popular myth — though one rarely shared in public — among some anti-choicers today.

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.


  1. 'Tis Himself says

    I have problems with the rape or incest exemption for abortion. Essentially, the exemption means that if the woman had non-consensual sex then she can have an abortion if needed. But if the slut had consensual sex then she’s stuck with giving birth. It’s all part of conservative misogynist slut-shaming.

  2. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says


    *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.

    Let them whine.
    You’re completely right.
    The people calling themselves ‘pro life’ are just ‘pro fetal life’, which doesn’t sound as cool. Even then, how concerned are they with the stages of development of the fetus?
    How concerned are they about the life of the child once she/he is born?
    How much opposition do they show towards their deity, who’s awfully fond of killing (and children to boot)?
    How concerned are they with the child having the proper nutrition, education and their general health & well being?
    How opposed to capital punishment are they?
    How opposed to war are they?
    These anti-choice activists wouldn’t know moral relativism if it smacked them in the face.

  3. says

    It’s hard to know where to start with this shitbag, but one thing that does occur to me, is what if he is right? What would that actually mean? The only possible angle that I can think of would be a spontaneous abortion as a result of stress-related health problems. I have no idea how likely that is, though I suspect the answer is not-very. Anyway, my point is that the sort of scenario he seems to be pointing to would likely to a traumatic experience in itself. How very kind of him to just let that sort of thing run its course!

  4. Smhll says

    Thank you for the great takedown. As a woman who had pre-eclampsia near the end of my one pregnancy, the proposal that a woman MAY be able to get an abortion IF a doctor swears she will die is pretty disturbing. I take it kind of personally. What about a 40% chance that I’ll die? Should I be expected to risk that? Could I get a doctor’s note for 80%? Does it need to be 102% to ensure that the doctor is really sure?

  5. doodlespook says

    The problem isn’t that they don’t understand why he’s wrong. The problem is they think he’s right. Ignorance works for them, so there’s no reason to address it.


  6. smrnda says

    When I read the *other quotes* about how pregnancy can’t result from rape, one of which contains the great line about how women ‘secrete a certain secretion’ or something to that effect, I realize that the type of people who believe these things have no interest in facts, except as things they make up on the spot to justify whatever policies they’ve been trying to push.

    Truth is this guy advanced a standard Republican talking point, and the Republican party isn’t known for its pursuit of medically accurate facts concerning human sexuality.

    Mainstream journalists are probably focused on sound-bytes and shallow coverage of events, but anybody can see the difference between saying something that *came out wrong* and when the substance of the comment is actually at fault.

    On the “exception” for rape, do people who get raped really want to have to divulge that information to anyone more than who they deem necessary just to get access to an abortion, and then be subject to some kind of official scrutiny as to whether or not the rape is adequately ‘forcible?’

    Also, the handful of links to articles on pregnancy and stress that I’ve seen come out in the last few days only seem to focus on the idea that stress or trauma might cause a pregnancy not to come to full term, NOT that conception does not occur. Even the suspect ‘studies’ he could site don’t support his assertion in the least.

  7. says

    Okay, so Dr. Willkie is one of those doctors who told Akin about how women’s bodies shut down “the whole process” of conception during rape. If a crackpot applies himself hard enough, he can get an MD. This doesn’t mean he isn’t full of nonsense.

  8. mythbri says

    You know, when you think about it, it’s really my fault for going around and thinking that I’m a person.

    Rapist = person

    Child = Fetus = person

    Woman = female body

  9. says

    As a brief point of fact, we’re rarely talking even about a “fetus”. It’s not a fetus until the 11th week following conception.

    But yes… how dare you think you’re a human person? You don’t have a penis OR an umbilical cord!

  10. says


    I would say, given the intense hypocrisy of espousing a “pro-life” position with respect to blastocysts and a “pro-suffering” or even “pro-death” position with respect to the vast majority of human beings, that anti-choice activists are actually intimiately familiar with moral relativism.

  11. smrnda says

    I agree totally – getting an MD mostly means passing exams that require hefty amounts of memorization. I don’t consider doctors to be scientists much of the time, but more like auto mechanics who are slightly less likely to actually be able to fix the problem that I give them to solve.

  12. Gordon says

    Since a pregnancy can cause great harm, even death, to the woman,
    abortion should be considered justified as self-defense.

  13. says

    While that’s pithy, self-defence is one person protecting themselves from another person’s assault. An embryo is not a person.

    Abortion should be considered ‘justified’ as a medical procedure, which is what it is.

  14. piegasm says

    I noticed the absence of the woman from Akin’s remark about who should be punished for rape. I also noticed that he said “some” punishment, as if to say “but not much because, pregnant or not, she’s probably lying”.

    I appreciate your use of the term anti-choice as well. You can’t reasonably call yourself pro-life if you’re also pro-death penalty. You also can’t reasonably call yourself pro-life if you’re willing to let a 16 year old girl and her baby die while you debate whether it’s ethical to subject the baby to chemotherapy. Anti-common-fucking-decency might be a better term, actually.

  15. meg says

    I agree.

    I sometimes think that the whole argument was started to try and get an emotional reaction from the pro-lifers, so that if they said ‘well, in that case it’s different’, we could jump on them with ‘aha – why is that unborn life different?’ and therefore win the argument on the basis they were inconsistent.

    However, it backfired. Instead, it’s made the discussion about rape, as proven with this latest round, and not about abortion and the rights of women. It needs to be two different discussions.

  16. says

    Not all trans men are on hormone replacement therapy though. In fact, given that many jurisdictions don’t cover HRT and being trans gendered is accompanied by a whole host of financial barriers (difficulty gaining employment/housing), I don’t know that I would expect the ‘average’ trans man to be on HRT. I could be wrong though.

    What I do know is that the narratives of trans men rarely make it into discussions of these kinds of health care issues.

  17. karmakin says

    It even goes past that. Do a bit of brainstorming, and think of all the implications of the belief that life begins at conception. If you truly believed that, how would you act? Does that line up with their cultural norms?(Protip: No)

  18. Blue Duck says

    Maybe Akin’s MD buddy got his degree from the Jack Chick Skool of Medesen. Cause that is the only place that would teach this kind of STOOPID.

  19. says

    Oh, that last part’s definitely true. I don’t actually know how many trans men are/aren’t on hormones; all the trans men of my acquaintance have managed it, often through the aid of charity clinics, but I expect that many places do not have charity clinics that will help with transition.

  20. Pen says

    I do wonder how I got from having once been a person long ago in my mother’s womb, to being a mere body? At which point did my immortal soul decide to beat it?

    Or more seriously, have they forgotten that half these embryos/fetuses they’re treating with such immense respect are to be born to lives of repressed sexuality or forced childbirth and rearing, if they get their way.

    PS. I don’t actually believe in immortal souls, just in case anyone wondered.

  21. hoary puccoon says

    You can see exactly how “pro-life” Ryan, for one, really is by looking at his budget. He wants to cut Medicaid. So, a woman who gets an abortion is a murderer– but a congressman who cuts funds for prenatal care, causing thousands of women to lose their babies is “pro-life?” No. Just, no.

  22. AnyBeth says

    Yeah, and that die is the only thing, too. “Lasting disability” isn’t enough. I regularly take three medications, all of them FDA pregnancy category C, meaning they don’t know. One of the drugs makes hormonal contraception ineffective. Another is, among other things, an anti-convulsant and many in this class are teratogens with major effects. If my doctors were unwilling to continue my prescriptions during pregnancy because they might cause birth defects, I’d occasionally be in amazing pain, experience pathological myclonus, and have so little energy that I’d be stuck in bed (which might happen with the medicine anyway). In addition, my blood would be eating my brain to who knows what likely permanent effects. Death could be a consequence (especially since I already have brain damage in a very dangerous area), but increases in disability are more likely. I don’t want to risk blindness, paralysis, or aphasia? Too bad, those aren’t death. Scary stuff.

  23. jamessweet says

    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.

    It’s anecdotal, but I have a couple of Facebook friends who are conservative Christians, anti-choice, the works… and even they are shocked by Akin’s comments. FWIW.

    On a side note, I had heard Akin claimed the “misspoke” defense, but I hadn’t actually read the notpology… uh… his clarification is exactly what I thought he meant in the first place! Yikes…

  24. A 'Nym Too says

    You’re wrong. Even in my own small circle I have two friends, both on testosterone, who got pregnant.

    One of them was impregnated by his wife, a trans woman on oestrogen. He didn’t realise he was pregnant until he was 30 weeks pregnant, and was trying to get a prescription for Accutane. He thought the T had bad caused his terrible acne.

    The bub was born healthy and well, and just started nursery school.

    The only trans man who absolutely cannot get pregnant is one that’s had a bilateral oophorectomy and a hysterectomy.

  25. John Horstman says

    Unless one believes a blastocyst actually is a person; the point of this line of argumentation is to highlight the fact that it doesn’t fucking matter if a blastocyst/embryo/fetus is a person, because an actual person doesn’t have the right to inhabit another person’s body and make use of one’s bloodstream, immune system, nutrients, etc. against one’s will. The ‘fetal personhood’ argument, even if one accepts its premise, is only an argument against abortion if one already believes women have no right to bodily autonomy, that another person’s survival trumps the right to bodily integrity. I like to draw an analogy to non-consensual organ ‘donation’: unless you also believe that someone has the right to (non-fatally) extract organs (or parts in the case of a liver) from someone without that person’s consent if it’s necessary for one’s survival, then it’s inconsistent to argue for forced pregnancy on the basis of a ‘right to life’. There are literally no arguments against abortion that acknowledge women’s right to bodily autonomy/agency/integrity (hence, all opposition to abortion is necessarily anti-woman), and the ‘fetal personhood’ meme is simply a derailing tactic, because it ultimately doesn’t matter if a fetus is a person (I don’t think it is, but I don’t see any reason to engage in that debate at all, unless someone starts asserting that ze should get an additional dependent tax credit while pregnant) – either way, a woman still has the right to end an unwanted pregnancy.

  26. John Horstman says

    It is for this reason that I try to be careful to either highlight the fact that not all persons who can become pregnant are women inline, or at least make a footnote pointing out that issues around pregnancy and reproductive autonomy may affect e.g. trans men in addition to women. I think I failed to do so in my last response; I should amend it.

  27. John Horstman says

    “Women” should really read “persons capable of becoming pregnant”, as not all persons capable of becoming pregnant identify as women. Shame on me for not writing it that way from the start.

  28. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Agreed. Getting an abortion is not the “holocaust”. Having some useless dumbass say you can’t get one isn’t “slavery”.

  29. Brandi says

    The general response he got from his own party made me so angry! Yes, they kept saying he was “biologically stupid” or whatever the talking point was, but more importantly they seemed to care more that he step down. Not step down because he said an atrocious thing but because A. he dared to say what most of them really think out loud for the world to hear and B. because he might lose them that election!

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