It’s low-lying fruit, and everyone else is wailing away at it like little kids swatting at a stuffed piñata, but I’m going to jump into the latest misogynistic controversy involving Missouri Rep. Todd Akin. The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, Akin justified his opposition to abortion rights for victims of “legitimate rape” on the grounds that these victims have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.
Not wanting to be accused of exaggerating, I’ll let Akin speak in his own words:
First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
After tightening my facial muscles and thinking about this for a millisecond, I said aloud, “Say what? What the hell is ‘legitimate rape?’” Apparently Akin would ignore all instances of acquaintance and/or date rape.
According to the National Institute of Justice, a sub-agency of the Department of Justice, “about 85 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women are perpetrated by someone known to the victim; about half occur on a date.” Sadly, half of these college students do not define these sexual assaults by acquaintances as “rape.” Filled with guilt and self-recrimination, the victims assume that when there is no obvious physical injury, or when alcohol is involved, no “legitimate” rape occurred.
Make no mistake: date rape, or rape by acquaintance is still rape—legitimate rape. The key question for determining if rape occurred is whether the alleged victim consented to the sexual intercourse. There can be no consent if a woman if unconscious, or under the requisite age to give legal consent. A husband can rape his wife; a father can rape his daughter; a brother can rape his sister: no matter the circumstances, sexual intercourse absent the consent of the victim is still rape.
Now, I’m a pro-choice Republican. And I understand that there are members of the Republican Party who think that abortion should be prohibited no matter the circumstances. I know I should dodge this issue, but given my personal history, I must speak on behalf of all those who have been abused or raped. When the underlying sexual act was done to an unwilling participant, and this leads to an unwanted pregnancy, we cannot morally ask the victim to carry the baby to term. The pregnancy occurred without consent, it is cruel and heartless to ask the rape victim to carry a baby to term. Hell. It’s bloody medieval if you ask me.
I found it fascinating that Akin tried to argue that a woman’s body shuts down during “legitimate rapes.” I’m not going to waste too many words on refuting this patently absurd contention. Let us take official notice of the biological fact that a woman cannot shut down her vagina or somehow make her reproductive organs prevent sperm from reaching her eggs. Akin’s argument is idiotic, but it’s even worse than that: it’s evil, because it switches the responsibility for preventing inception to the rape victim.
Let’s say a woman was raped by a stranger. According to Akin, her body, if acting properly, would actually prevent the sperm from reaching her ovaries. If the “legitimate” rape victim became pregnant, therefore, it would somehow be because she didn’t try hard enough, or her body failed her by not rejecting the sperm. Under Akin’s bizarre construct, the same woman could not seek an abortion—after all, she failed, or her body failed, to prevent the pregnancy from happening.
Is this the best argument Pro-Life activists can assert in cases involving rape or incest? To me, this kerfuffle shows how intellectually bankrupt the extreme right wing has become. I pray that the Republican Party moves toward the middle during the upcoming convention.
Friends, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, or Independent, take a close look at the candidates in your local races. Let’s try to elect people who have an elementary understanding of biology and a rational justification for his or her political and philosophical beliefs. I understand and respect that some people oppose abortion under any circumstances. But let’s not elect politicians who confuse science with politics or who lack the ability to think rationally.