What did Congressman Todd Akin mean when he made this famous comment on a St. Louis TV station?
“Well you know, 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. 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. 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 on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Akin is an educated man with an engineering degree. Clearly, expertise in engineering can coexist with stunning, breathtaking ignorance of human reproductive biology. But let’s set that aside and try to get at what Akin was REALLY trying to say.
“Pro-life” absolutists like Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and most Catholic bishops would make abortion (or ANY destruction of ANY human zygote) illegal in ALL cases. For example, in 2009 the Catholic Church excommunicated the entire Brazilian medical team that performed an abortion on a nine-year-old girl who was impregnated with twins by her stepfather. The girl’s mother was also excommunicated. The stepfather was NOT excommunicated.
Clearly, pregnancies resulting from rape (“forceable” and otherwise) present a difficult challenge to the “pro-life” movement. On the one hand, it seems cruel to many of us to force a woman to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby. For some members of my family, that cruelty is compounded when the rapist is a member of another race. The horror! A white girl carrying a black baby against her will!
On the other hand, if we were to allow abortions in the case of rape, it calls into question the absolutist dogma that “abortion is murder.” Then the entire logical foundation of the “pro-life” argument crumbles. If every fertilized egg is a “person” deserving the full protection of the law from the moment of its conception, by what logic can we justify termination of a pregnancy originating in rape? Answer: there is none.
The answer to this conundrum is for “pro-life” forces to deny the existence of pregnancy through rape!
This is what Akin was getting at in his poorly-worded statement. Much discussion has occured about his identification of “legitimate rape,” as opposed to… what? Illegimate rape? Forceable rape as opposed to consensual rape?
“I talk about one word, one sentence, one day out of place, and, all of a sudden, the entire establishment turns on you.” – Todd Akin
It seems to me that most of the commentary has gone the wrong way on Akin’s use of the word “legitimate.” As even Paul Ryan has explained, “Rape is rape.” There is no distinction to be made with “illegitimate” rape. Clearly, what Akin was saying is that women seeking abortion are often liars who only CLAIM that they were raped. Where is the police report? Where are the bruises? Didn’t she fight back?
Can you see how nicely this solves the pro-life “rape problem”? In the case of “legitimate” (truthful) rape, God’s Little Condom protects the woman from pregnancy. So, a pregnant woman MUST be lying if she says she was raped. Therefore there is no need for a rape exception to bans on abortion. Pregnancy proves the untruthfulness of claims of rape. REAL raped women don’t get pregnant at all! Ergo, no rape exception for abortion.
Don’t we already know that women seeking abortions are lying sluts?
It’s almost as convenient as back in the old witch-hunting days. Real witches float, so we can test whether or not a woman is a witch by throwing her in the water. If she sinks, then she wasn’t a witch. Too bad that she drowned during the test. If she floats, we can still burn her at the stake!
I won’t even get into abortion exceptions for incest. What is the logic? Aren’t most incestuous pregnancies the result of statutory rape? What degree of consanguinuity constitutes incest? Consensual sex between brother and sister? What about cousins? And what’s the harm?
Maybe this is a topic for another day.