Akin’s ‘legitimate rape’ reveals GOP hypocrisy and creates conundrum for Creationists
On Sunday, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) explained in an interview that women subject to “legitimate rape” have physical defenses to prevent pregnancy, so pregnancy from rape is “really rare”. The response, from both the left and the right–even some on the far right–has been overwhelmingly negative. But why is the right so distraught? And what does all this have to do with Creationism?
Calls for Akin’s resignation from the House and renunciation of his hard-won Senate primary victory have come from all over the GOP. Among the first to pipe up was Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), who soared to victory with Tea Party support in 2010 and then decided he was really a moderate after all.
Presently embroiled in a tough battle against Elizabeth Warren, Brown fired off a press release in record time, demanding Akin resign his nomination . . . showing little compunction about nourishing his own deadlocked campaign with the bloodied remains of a fellow Republican’s effort.
The national Republican Party, long eyeing vulnerable Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill’s seat as the easiest of four needed to gain a Republican Senate majority, went further than Brown in its condemnation, bringing in calls from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and lead campaign strategist Sen. John Cornyn, both demanding Akin step down. Then they announced that the national party would pull all campaign funding from Akin, as leading conservative PACs such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS cancelled ad buys in Missouri which supported Akin.
Even Judson Phillips, head of Tea Party Nation (one of the largest far-right, anti-choice, Christian Nation Tea Party groups) has decided that securing the Senate seat is more important than standing for principles:
John Brunner was the establishment pick to win. He self funded his race and could do so for a general election. Sarah Steelman is a superb candidate and as a woman she totally kills the Akin screw up.
We must take the Senate back this year. If we do not win the Senate, even if Mitt Romney wins the Presidency, we will not be able to repeal Obamacare and stop all the damage Obama has done.
The Missouri senate seat is a must win seat and Todd Akin, who was generally viewed as a weak candidate before this, cannot carry the day.
If by “weak candidate” Phillips means “was leading McCaskill by 11 points last week“, or perhaps “still leads McCaskill by one point“, then I guess he’s a weak candidate . . .
But the hypocrisy doesn’t end with dumping one of their own to save their own hides, or to capture the Senate. It runs much deeper.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke out, as one might expect, but his words were not as surprising as those from running mate Paul Ryan. NBC reported earlier this evening that Ryan had personally called Akin, asking him to step down. The Romney campaign would neither confirm nor deny the report.
Why is a private call from Ryan a bigger deal than a public demand from Romney? What’s so hypocritical about it? Simple.
Last year, while Mitt was still trying to figure out what position on abortion to stake, Paul Ryan co-sponsored legislation to change federal restrictions on abortion funding. Instead of limiting it to “rape”, it would be limited to “forcible rape”. And it wasn’t just a couple of Tea Party extremists on board:
. . . the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape.”
Or, I suppose, “legitimate rape”. Since that’s what Akin explained that he meant to say:
“I was talking about forcible rape, and it was absolutely the wrong word,” Akin said.
What does that mean? The only “legitimate rape” involves physical force. Coercion? Date rape drugs? Inability to give consent (minors, mentally disabled or otherwise incapacitated)? Not legitimate rape. If it’s not physically forced, it’s not rape to Akin. Nor is it to Ryan. Nor to most of the Republicans in Congress.
Successfully tying Ryan and most Republicans to “legitimate rape” could cost the Presidency and more than a few seats in the chambers.
Did you think that was the bottom of the rabbit hole? Sorry, Alice, there’s more.
Akin’s positions are common in the anti-choice community, where he’s something of an anti-choice hero:
Previously, Akin said he wants to ban the morning after pill, worried marital rape laws will be used as “a legal weapon to beat up on the husband” and sought to narrow the definition of “rape” in legislation. Akin also prominently advertises his endorsement from Schlafly, who has said women cannot be raped by their husbands.
Meanwhile, the belief that women have “defenses” to prevent pregnancy through forcible rape is widespread throughout the anti-abortion community:
Sarah Posner in Religion Dispatches notes that Akin, who has a masters in divinity, received his degree at a denomination which teaches that rape seldom leads to pregnancy and should not be relevant to laws on abortion rights, and as Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones pointed out, anti-choice luminary John Willke asserts that hormones make pregnancies resulting from rape “extremely rare” and Physicians for Life believes “the rate of pregnancy is actually very rare” because the stress from the rape “alter[s] bodily functions, the menstrual cycle included.”
Those opinions are commonplace among anti-choice activists.
Human Life International says “it is very useful to be able to show just how rare rape- and incest-caused pregnancies really are” in order to expose women who falsely state they were raped in order to have abortions: “Women who are willing to kill their own preborn children for mere convenience obviously see lying as a relatively small crime.”
In other words, Akin is guilty of . . . accurately and honestly representing the views of his constituents and endorsers, and of many Republican leaders!
The importance of this view to the anti-choice movement cannot be overstated. If:
- The only “legitimate rape” is forcible rape; and
- It is virtually impossible to get pregnant from forcible rape due to unspecified “defenses”; then
- Any woman who is pregnant was (obviously) not raped. Therefore,
- There is no need for a rape exemption, but the forcible rape exemption shouldn’t result in any abortions anyway.
The establishment Right’s desire to keep this shockingly degrading view of women–any rape victim who gets pregnant must have “wanted it”–from the public means they must do their best to deny its existence, and cast out the one who exposed their dark secret to scrutiny.
UPDATE 8/21/12: ThinkProgress reports today that the GOP platform for 2012 includes a Constitutional ban on abortion without exception for rape, whether “forcible”, “legitimate”, or other.
Creationists also have a wee problem, though I’ve not seen any apologist address it.
The “no pregnancies from forcible rape” theory has been key to the anti-choice right for years. Unfortunately, there appears to be little to support it; not only are there tens of thousands of pregnancies per year in the United States as the result of rape, but there’s no documented defense mechanism. The closest I’ve spotted–and I’m no OB/GYN, and would welcome evidence of something more “defensive” from anyone who can link to it–is called “preeclampsia”. UPDATE: The symptoms of preeclampsia are high maternal blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. The cure? Spontaneous (or occasionally induced) abortion.
The theory of seminal priming addresses a correlation between preeclampsia and the father’s genetic profile:
There are a host of ancillary risk factors for developing preeclampsia, including such things as obesity, maternal age, exercise, vitamin deficiency and maternal genetics, but the most astonishing common denominator is related to the father’s genetic profile. More often than not, preeclampsia is the result of a hostile immunological maternal response to the paternal genome in the developing conceptus. In other words, the mother’s body is unwittingly terminating a pregnancy that has arisen with a man for whom she has an incompatible biochemistry.
Davis and Gallup, in fact, were not the first to discover this curious priming effect. By the early 1980s, scientists had started to notice that preeclampsia was more likely to occur in pregnancies resulting from “one-night stands,” artificial insemination and rape than in pregnancies that were the product of long-term sexual cohabitation.
Note that preeclampsia doesn’t prevent pregnancy, nor does it consistently effectively terminate pregnancy. It causes severe stress to the mother, and often results in miscarriage (spontaneous abortion). Sometimes quite late in pregnancy.
But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that humans do have a defense to prevent pregnancy via rape. After all, some animals have evolved defenses to rape. Ducks reproduce via forced copulation; female ducks have adapted with corkscrew vaginas able to block penetration by undesirable males, but allow desirable males entry.
But that’s evolution, and that’s where the Creationist conundrum comes into play.
Young-Earth Creationists dismiss evolution. They believe humans are the same as they were when God created them 6,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden.
If women have a “defense” against pregnancy from rape, it means that when God created Eve, he intentionally included those defenses.
If Young-Earth Creationists are right, their god anticipated that his “perfect creation” would resort to violent rape, apparently with frequency adequate to demand “defenses”, at the time he created the very first humans.
Where does this leave Creationists who claim a “perfect creation”? Does it mean that forcible rape is part of the Plan? If not, why would their god have created women with these “defenses”?