They’ve done it again. For their latest every-so-often gift to the Democrats, the Republicans have produced Todd Akin and let him loose to launch himself into subjects about which he knows very little yet comes out with some of the most quotable lines. His latest being “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.” In Akin’s infinite wisdom, the morning-after pill should be banned so, even if a woman is subject to “legitimate rape”, but her bad body didn’t “shut that whole thing down”, she can’t take the pill to prevent pregnancy because, in Akinland, that’s abortion, too.
This from a man who sits on the Congress Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Akin’s now embarked on a damage limitation campaign, saying he “misspoke” and meant to say “forcible rape” which, of course, would have been so much more appropriate and made sense. He’s not the first GOPer to use the term to distinguish between real rapes and not-really-rape rapes. It’s a bit of a party favourite. He co-sponsored, along with Rep Paul Ryan and 171 others, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, introduced by Rep Chris Smith who tried to sneak it into the bill that would cut federal funding of abortions for women who’d been raped. The term was never clearly defined and was dropped from the bill, though it’s apparently still clung to by anti-abortionists.
Akin has now decided that “Rape is never legitimate. It’s an evil act that’s committed by violent predators. I used the wrong words in the wrong way…I also know that people do become pregnant from rape. I didn’t mean to imply that that wasn’t the case.” Despite calls for his resignation from all sides, he’s sticking in there, steadfast in his belief that “by the grace of God, we’re going to win this race.” When in doubt, blame it on the Big G in the sky.
Obama’s weighed in with “Rape is rape” which, at least, makes sense and, if it’s not just a soundbite and easy shot at Akin, sounds like progress in the ongoing – and worldwide – battle for women’s rights.
Appalling though Akin’s attitude is, it’s hardly surprising. The GOP has a fairly long-held tradition of explaining what rape is, how we should feel about it, and the amazing things our bodies will do to stop us getting pregnant if we really are being raped. To name a few: Rep Clayton Williams says we should “just relax and enjoy it”; Rep Stephen Freind decided the chances of a women getting pregnant through rape are “one in millions and millions and millions” because women “secrete a certain secretion” that kills all the sperm; Rep Chuck Winder doesn’t think women can get pregnant if they’re married to the rapist; and Rep Henry Aldridge says, if you’re really getting raped, “the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”
What all these grand defenders of women the world over have to back up their opinions is science: the unnamed doctors who told Akin about the female body’s cunning ways to stop women getting pregnant; the “medical authorities” Aldridge says agree that it’s a rarity – if, indeed, it happens at all – for women to get pregnant from rape; and, my personal favourite, Dr John C. Willke, former president of the National Right To Life Committee and self-proclaimed “expert in human sexuality”, who says trauma stops women getting pregnant so, if a woman does get pregnant, clearly she wasn’t traumatised by the experience and, therefore, wasn’t really raped at all. In his article “Rape Pregnancies Are Rare“, he applies logic based solely on impeccable reasoning and objective scientific research and not at all influenced by his own religious and moral agenda, to US pregnancy statistics, whittling away at the numbers till he concludes that pregnancy from rape is 4-10 per state per year, if that. How special that must make those women insufficiently traumatised by rape to stop them getting pregnant, to know that they are such a select few.
I’m curious to know what the women in the lives of Akin and the like think of their views. Perhaps they agree with every word. Dr Willke’s wife, Barbara, joins him on the lecture circuit and, between them, they’ve given talks in 85 countries and written books that have been translated into 32 languages. I’d like to think there are huge spats in the dressing room before they go on stage, preferably over his latest drivellings, but I suspect she thinks he’s super. Maybe every one of the wives and girlfriends has a benzodiazepine fog that gets them through the day. Or it could be that they used to argue with them, but have given up, deciding that going up against an ignorant, smug, stupid megalomaniac who thinks he’s God Almighty is just too much like hard work. Maybe they hate them and love every minute of watching them being humiliated in public. If only I had a cooked up scientific study or some medical authority as an imaginary friend, I could probably prove it either way.
But I don’t have a key to Akinland to join him and his friends in their colourful world in which no man need let the truth or reality get in the way of stupendous absurdity, so I just have to content myself with the real world in which women get pregnant from rape and decisions fundamental to their health are made by men who have no idea what they’re talking about.