After much searching through the online news reports and commentaries dealing with Todd Akin’s rape statement made during an interview on KTVI-TV in St. Louis, I finally found an article that actually quoted him. All the rest paraphrased him or simply offered interpretations of what he said, many of them maliciously. Let’s start at the beginning and look at his words:
“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.”
So, what are we to think? First, Akin’s allusion to “rarity” as regards pregnancies from rape is gratuitous; it counts for nothing. His second contention, which is that female bodies have “ways” to reject impregnation by rapists can be discarded as utter nonsense. His ignorance here is unequivocal, and his judgment in expressing this ignorance on live TV is inexcusable. So much for the case against him to this point.
Now we come to his words, “If it’s a legitimate rape….” What is it that he means by legitimate?” A number of the articles about this story either directly state, or strongly imply, that Akin believes some rapes can be legitimate, legal, acceptable, and lawful, just as others can be illegitimate, illegal, unacceptable and unlawful. Only those who are intent on lynching Akin and smearing his party would make that charge. It is perfectly clear to the unbiased that the remark, if properly expanded, would read: “If the claim of ‘rape’ was honestly made, that is, not fabricated by the assumed victim, then that claim would have been legitimate.” True, the choice of words was unfortunate, but their clear intent was innocent enough. To take them in the first context above, like many of Akin’s liberal critics do, would be to paint him as a monster who believes that some types of rape are really OK, rather than to depict him as a moralist who opposes all kinds of abortion, including termination of rape-induced pregnancies.
Some would take issue with Akin’s apparent assumption that a percentage of claimed rapes are a product of afterthought rather than of actual non-consensual intercourse. This point of view is unrealistically embraced by some who would maintain that any claim of rape is automatically a valid one. Hardly a sustainable argument.
Akin’s final statement supporting punishment of the rapist rather than the child is further evidence of his rejection of abortion, even in the event of rape. Of course, those who would disagree with this position have the rightful option to register their disapproval at the polls, but they ought not to have an option to demonize the man.
So much for Akin and his words. The question remains: how is this man and his faulty medical knowledge and clumsy expression being used by his political enemies – and even by his friends?
As might be expected from a failed and flawed Democratic administration frantically searching for issues on which to attack Republican challengers, no matter how far-fetched, a media blitz on Akin has been launched. He is accused of being “anti-women.” The “great Divider”, Mr. Obama, not only hangs this label on Akin, but on Romney, Ryan, and all Republicans as well. He takes advantage of women’s understandable fear of rape and plays to that fear by assuring them that Republicans intend to criminalize all forms of abortion – a wild and irresponsible charge. In an effort to defeat this allegation, Romney and Ryan have attempted to cut their losses by cutting loose Mr. Akin and his Senate candidacy.
Such strategy is questionable. The danger lies in the effect of their efforts to distance themselves from Akin. If those efforts tend to dilute the pro-life image of the Republicans, a significant segment of the GOP base may be jeopardized. There have been too many “about faces” on the position already (e.g. Romney in Massachusetts) to once again cause pro-lifers to become uneasy. No matter what people say now in the polls about the overriding importance of the economy, when they are poised to register their votes, morality will play a large part in their decisions.
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey (Creative Commons)