Todd Akin Fallout: Rape, Abortion and the Dark History of Qualifying Violence Against Women

The "forcible rape" canard has been around for a while. The problem is in trying to police the kind of trauma that merits the right to an abortion

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Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Representative Todd Akin speaks during a press conference on the Health and Human Services Department's new abortion rule on March 21, 2012

It’s code red as Republicans try to distance themselves from Representative Todd Akin’s recent startlingly inaccurate biology lesson. Claiming that victims of what he called “legitimate” rape could somehow “shut down” the process of conception, Akin, who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has since tried to dismiss his remarks as boorish, one-off musings. (He meant to say “forcible rape,” not “legitimate rape.”) Obama issued an unequivocal statement: “Rape is rape.” Meanwhile, a Mitt Romney–Paul Ryan spokeswoman quickly clarified that their Administration would permit abortions in cases of rape.

But the story doesn’t end with a bizarre, unscientific comment about how reproduction works. This embarrassing episode is only the latest in a long string of Republican rape canards that present a binary view of female sexuality in which some women are deemed worthy of legislative sympathy while others are not.

(MORE: ‘Legitimate Rape’? Todd Akin and Other Politicians Who Confused Science)

The ignorance is reaching a new crescendo, but it goes back decades. We heard from periodontist turned lawmaker Henry Aldridge that women who are “truly raped” can’t become pregnant because the “juices don’t flow.” Others, including a federal judge, have called pregnancy from rape as likely as “snow in Miami” and “1 in millions in millions,” while some have embraced specious claims about the effect of emotional trauma on conception from (so-called) “assaultive rape” and other science-bending notions. Former state representative Stephen Freind once opined that raped women “secrete a certain secretion” to prevent conception. (If such a thing existed, surely the pharmaceutical industry would like to hear about it.)

More recently, vice-presidential candidate Ryan drew fire for language in the co-sponsored No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that initially distinguished between “forcible rape” and statutory rape of minors or nonviolent rapes that could affect mentally impaired, retarded or drugged women.

The victim blaming harkens back to the days when it was accepted wisdom that “good” women were incapable of being raped and some people thought conception could only occur if a woman achieved orgasm. It’s not a great distance from such obtuseness to practices in countries like Pakistan, where marital rape is not recognized legally and women are treated as criminals, not victims, unless they can produce multiple male witnesses to their rape.

(MORE: Tim Padgett: Don’t Let Paul Ryan Become a Religious Lightning Rod)

Experts calculate that pregnancy results from about 5% of rapes, in part because women are fertile for several days each month and rape is committed disproportionately (vastly so) against very young women at the peak of fecundity. One study even found troubling evidence that pregnancy rates were higher — not lower! — in cases of rape than consensual sex, even after controlling for differences in use of birth control. The authors theorize that fertile women in consensual relationships can decline sex when they are ovulating whereas rape victims don’t have a choice.

But it’s a mistake to get mired in pregnancy rates. The problem is in trying to police the kind of pregnancy trauma that merits the right to an abortion. Incest is culturally noxious, of course, but is it always worse than other traumatic conception stories? And just how much incest are we willing to tolerate, anyway, before making abortion an exception? Incest between siblings? Parent and adult child? Second cousins? Are we really certain that a 13-year-old girl who has sex with a 35-year-old neighbor is in less need of an abortion exception than an “assaultive” rape victim (whatever that means)? What about a couple with Down syndrome whose parents forgot to explain birth control? Or a schizophrenic patient who was found in bed with a hospital employee? What about a woman facing financial catastrophe or crushing depression?

(MORE: Christakis: Why Birth Control Matters for the American Dream)

There will always be nuance and ambiguity as far as pregnancy is concerned. That’s why many Americans have long preferred to stay out of first-trimester-abortion decisions, leaving them to a woman and her doctor, partner and conscience. People on all sides of the abortion debate should instead unite to prevent as many abortions as possible through comprehensive sex education; better access to family planning; improved support for adoption; and greater compassion for living, breathing parents and not only their unborn children. To this list, we might also add better science education for legislators.

MORE: Christakis: Men Have Sex Too

73 comments
VictoriaGrayson
VictoriaGrayson

Whatever prat seems to think that rape has to be "legitimate" or "forcible" is so wrong!! Don't these idiots know that you don't have to be showing signs of a beating to have been raped or sexually assaulted?! I mean, my God! And people actually want people like that running their country? What is wrong with this world? And then they wanted to try and prevent abortion?! There's something seriously messed up going on in the heads of those Republicans! Also, whoever said that it's unlikely a woman who was raped will get pregnant is insane! And saying that the "juices don't flow" is so wrong! 1 - it's very likely that a woman who was raped will get pregnant, especially if the rapist didn't wear a condom (which many don't). 2 - the "juices" do "flow" because whether the woman wants sex or not it is the body's natural way of reacting to something that is sexually stimulating. It doesn't have to be wanted stimulation, just any kind of stimulation. The people that think rape is something that can be explained away by saying it has to be "legitimate" or "forcible" are absolute MORONS!!!

CarolinaKate
CarolinaKate

I wish that the pro-lifers would go to work with me for just one week. They need to see what kind of lives these children they are "saving," are going to live. They could meet the 29-year old, single, unemployed mother with 6 children - and a 7th on the way - who are living in 2 bedrooms in a boarding house. Or the 21-year old mother who believes that her 1-year old "won't allow" her to empty the garbage can, bathe him, or feed him anything but French fries and Mt. Dew. Maybe they would like to see the scars, from being beaten with a belt buckle, on the paraplegic 10-year old. They could ask the young man, whose mother bit off his penis, how glad he is that his life was saved, and talk to the young mother, who was so 'high" that she allowed her boyfriend to so savagely rape and sodomize her toddler, that the child died.

These children are not being "saved," they're being damned, and doomed to lives of pain, misery, hunger, abuse, neglect, and fear. 

oldprofessor
oldprofessor

A good article that covers some ...but not all the problems that arise from the  perspective of having a government regulate a woman's actions concerning her body. 

There are the cost of raising an unwanted child for 18 years....and the case of rapists having parental rights of the child conceived during rape.  As long as that exists in this country,  the Republican Party comes across as insincere in their efforts of preventing abortion.

Andrew Hyatt Masset III
Andrew Hyatt Masset III

Hey..why not just call it what it is...Taliban. What the repukes want is a 'Taliban' approach to women..it is disgusting, repulsive and against American values. Imagine if women had the power to force men to sterilize, castrate, or rape them?? how long do you think men would allow that?? Total BS from archaic, ego inflated, pathetic old white men.

nanook88
nanook88

why would we expect anything less from the political party for non-science majors. No global warming, jury is still out on evolution and now new powers of the female body. What a crock. It scares me to think that anyone could take these bible thumping idots seriously.

nanook88
nanook88

why would we expect anything less from the party for non-science majors. No global warming, jury is still out on evolution, and now when raped women can shut their bodies down so they dont become pregnant. New science?

miki801
miki801

The process of rape was known to produce children in Roman times.  The infamous Rape of the Sabine Women was ordered to produce as many half Roman children as possible so the local populace would be come roman citizens.  Regardless of the biological stupidity of the idea of a body's shutdown, or the "forcibility" of the sex act, a woman should not be forced to carry a fetus to term against her freewill.

Mary
Mary

I think abortion is an awful thing, that is sometimes the right thing to do for the woman or girl involved.

If a woman/girl is raped by a stranger or a relative what right has the government to tell her how she is to handle the situation if she becomes pregnant.

It is between her and her loved ones or her God. It's not a easy decision and one that she will never forget her whole life.

superlogi
superlogi

Another straw man is being built.  The fact is, in almost any jurisdiction in this country, a woman can get an abortion simply by purchasing a pill.  Later on, she sometime's needs an excuse like mental instability up and until the child is actually being born.  The fact is, we have abortion on demand in this country, primarily because the collective has become more important than the individual. 

Davel6969
Davel6969

'who cares' these women want to abort its on them let god give them their's.We as a nation want to butt in to every ones life.Isn't that gods plan anyway; if that child was meant to be born wouldn't god send him/her to a mother who would have them.huh? you mind yours i'll mind mine so stay out of other.(got it).

turdface
turdface

Todd who where did he come from

Bilosopher
Bilosopher

There's a new wing to the Republican party in Missouri - it's known as the Missouri Morons. It's fun reading how the MM's are seeking god's help in making chicken salad out of the chicken poop idea that the Akin crowd represent.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

For those who take the Bible literally:

"If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her." Deuteronomy 22:28-29 

"If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and rapes her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife." Deuteronomy 22:23-24

rokinsteve
rokinsteve

You just proved the bible is a primitive book so why are you still a christian?

Mary
Mary

That's the trouble with people who take the Bible literally, they pick and choose which of God's word to follow.

The Bible is written by man amp; man is fallible. In fact, it is the earliest recorded instance of plagiarism. Genesis is nearly a verbatim account of the 1000 year earlier story of Gilgamesh.

oldprofessor
oldprofessor

The Bible is an evolutionary account of a religion.  Its shows how the religion changed over time.  Religion is not fixed...it changes with the evolution of society.  There was the Old Testament, ,,,then the New Testament and now the Book of Mormon.

MohammadSchwartz
MohammadSchwartz

While were talking about 'religious fanatics" how about just plain Democrats?

A Minnesota Democrat who had sex with a 17-year-old boy at an I-35 rest stop says he is dropping his re-election bid, just hours after he said he would stay in the race, according to news reports.

"I changed my mind," 56-year-old state Rep. Kerry Gauthier told the Associated Press. "Too much. It's just too much."

He also told AP that an overdose of muscle relaxants he took last week was a suicide attempt.

AP's report appears to follow a call Gauthier made to Northland's News Center to announce his withdrawal from the race, which could decide whether Democrats or Republicans control the state House.

The station writes: "Gauthier says there's too much political fall out and it's too hard on him psychologically. He doesn't know what he's going to do but he knows that staying in the race will be too hard on him emotionally."

Gauthier added that he was not resigning because he wants to keep his health benefits through the end of the year.

bzelbub
bzelbub

First, all rapes are forcible. Second, not only women are raped. Third, why is it so important to stop abortions, when money for childcare is always debated? Fourth, if all human life is sacred, why it it permissible to have a death penalty? Fifth, since the platitude of Its Gods Will, is so often thrown around, why would anyone assume that if someone is shot or killed in a car accident or whatever that it isn't Gods Will? 

After all we are usually told by religious types God has a Plan. And since the Christian God needed Judas to set up his son, doesn't it also stand that God needs other intermediaries to help kill other people too? And therefore God needs women to abort babies, because that is way his tribute system works.

superlogi
superlogi

No all rapes are not forcible.  Statutory rape in many jurisdictions has to do with age and not consent.

Davel6969
Davel6969

No! But they are easily dealt with."DEATH ON CONVICTION"!! No excuses!!(AND) Not 5, 10, or 20 years later right after conviction.

breindrein
breindrein

Womans bodies can expell evil semen spirits, or so the legend goes.

Shell
Shell

Everything over there seems so backwards, it's very worrying. Please move forward America.

seobro
seobro

 What do cops say. "Of course you were robbed, that is because you were wearing a watch that is expensive." Blaming the victim is easier.

Still remember a cheerleader that was raped after a foot ball game. A woman said, she should not dress that way. She was inviting rape.

Alan Schmukler
Alan Schmukler

The Republicans are preaching to a chauvinist audience which embraces these ideas willingly.  It doesn't matter how unscientiic or unfair thesse notionss are,  they satisfy the inadequate.

PASC
PASC

Yes, sane Republicans: Think.

Do you really hate to see a black guy in the White House so much that you'd condone this crap? Are you so willing to suspend every shred of rationality and decency you possess because you can't handle no longer being unquestionably superior (which is what is, I belive, behind your hatred of the guy who represents your "new" position in this world: equal to, not superior to")?

Michelle Janowiecki
Michelle Janowiecki

 As a Republican- I don't condone this crap. I really wish to yell at

Todd Akin for his clear and utter stupidity. But he isn't representative of  Republicans (who are running away from him). And no, I don't hate to see a black guy in the white house. I just disagree with him on a lot of issues. Please stop accusing Republicans of racism. It lowers any debate to a stupid level when you make it about race.

oldprofessor
oldprofessor

The issue of women's rights is not about race.  It is about the personal freedom of ALL women.

Diana Maras
Diana Maras

I've always wondered about joiners and followers. I just can't wrap my head around being part of a group that doesn't represent my interests. A woman being a republican is the same thing as a white person joining the black panthers. It's freaking hilarious.

Shane Ladd
Shane Ladd

Conservatives can make it simple: Choose life for the unborn amp; impose the death penalty on rapists. Liberals, of course, believe in the opposite approach.

S
S

This has absolutely nothing to do with liberals, its about the lies that have been accepted among pro-lifers for decades.

cravin_moorehead
cravin_moorehead

Never mind religion.  This cretin will get elected because the "red" states are the southern states.  The southern states are also the least educated and therefore the dumbest states.  

They are proud of their stupidity and wear it as a badge of honor.  They flaunt their stupidity in the same way that they proudly display the "Stars and Bars".  Or, as I call it, their, "Stupid Stamp".  Many of these states still have that emblem on their state flags.

Here's a flash for you southern twits.  The Civil War is over and YOU LOST!  Deal with it and return to normal society.  States rights are fine unless you consider it a right to own another human being or want to deny someone his right to vote.Don't believe me?  Look at this chart.  Legitimate education is frowned upon in the south. http://www.edgetech-us.com/ima... that is left of the republican party are the very, very rich and those stupid enough to vote republican and against their own best interests.The majority of the south is stupid and the rest of us have to live with the consequences of their stupidity.

Andrew Hyatt Masset III
Andrew Hyatt Masset III

I live in the South...OMG..what happened here?? Did Sherman destroy their mental acuity too? or is it the heat, lack of education, fried everything, bible thumping yet commit every sin and break all laws mentality??? hmmmm...maybe...

proudsouth
proudsouth

The stupid ones are people like you who don,t know what they are talking about..If you truly knew anything about the level of knowledge of the southern majority you would not try to lump them all into your narrow view of a lot of very intelligent people...Our state has some of the most respected colleges in the country which are well attended by people from all over... 

cravin_moorehead
cravin_moorehead

Is that why people from the educated, northern states are flocking to send their children to the south for an education?

If you want a good football school with a jock sniffing, rah rah student body, then the south is the place for you.

If you want a real education, then the northern school are it.

The north has the "Ivy League."

The south has the "Kudzu League."

Don't believe me?  Look at this chart.

http://www.edgetech-us.com/ima... 

valente347
valente347

Just as a historical note: although a slave state, Missouri (along with Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and the newly formed West Virginia) never ceded from the Union during the Civil War. While the state was hugely divided by the war, it was never represented in the Confederacy.

Also, Rep. Akin was mainly elected by the St. Louis suburbs - not exactly hillbilly heaven. (Luckily for me, his bid to represent the entire state of Missouri means I can finally vote against him.)

cravin_moorehead
cravin_moorehead

Thank you for the information.  I stand corrected on that point.

carlcid
carlcid

Lest we forget, Mitt Romney embraced, and was endorsed by, Dr. John Willke, the foremost proponent of the outrageous notion that rape lowers pregnancy risk.

Dan Slaby
Dan Slaby

Women: In the Bible you were in bondage to your male relations, and your jealous husband could bring you to the priest for a miscarriage (Numbers 5:22). In the Old Testament, the life of the unborn was subject to the will of the father.

At the founding of this nation, you were passed over for the right to vote. Only white male property owners were given the right to vote.

At the emancipation of this nation from slavery, you were passed over for the vote, including emancipated female slaves.

In the 19th Amendment, you won the right to vote.

In Roe vs Wade, you won the right to make your own decisions regarding motherhood.

You are now free to make your own decisions in privacy.

This election, you have many moral decisions to make, and both the Old and New Testament had many admonitions against the love of money and injustice, and reserved the decisions over life and death for men.

Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 writes that the goal for Christians is equality (not equal opportunity):

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: 'The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little'."

And the Gospel of Luke 16:13 warns against serving two masters:

"No one can server two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot server both God and money."

The social conservative Christian endorsement of Ayn Rand's gospel of selfish capitalist individualism and entitlement of the conservative wealthy to be given preferential tax treatment conflicts with the social Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament, you were set free from the Old Testament law.

Under the Constitution, you were set free from having men make your decisions for you.

Consider voting for moral righteousness in this election of 2012.

Michelle Janowiecki
Michelle Janowiecki

 Social conservative christian republicans do not support Ayn Rand in general- she is a materialistic atheist who only values people by their monetary worth. And if you are truly a Christian- you value and love everyone equally- poor and rich, born and unborn, man or woman. I personally think gays and straight should be loved and valued equally too- but many Christians disagree with me (which is sad).

JuneS1
JuneS1

Finally someone is on record linking this nonsense to some of what goes on in the ME. Frankly, the Republican Party is a clean-shaven Taliban. Women who took for granted rights they never had to fight for, need to do their part now. They don't have to burn their bras but they do have some party affiliation cards they could burn.

vstillwell
vstillwell

Don't worry. The Missouri meth heads will vote this pr!ck into office. They love their government cheese and their hypocrisy. 

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

One lesson here is that its tough to lead a double life.  When your true beliefs are one thing and then you try to maintain a different persona for public consumption you will usually slip up at some point and you true colors will appear.  We can only be thankful this has happened in time for the voters to see who this guy really is.  The other benefit to voters is the highlight on Ryan's support for a bill that sought to narrow the definition of rapes that would be allowed to be an exception to abortion prohibitions.  OMG! Really???  Where to do they find people like this and how have they risen to such high positions.  Insane.

Troygrad
Troygrad

When is rape not forcible?  What's the difference between statutory rape, rape as an act of war, getting raped by a friend or mugger?  The answer to all of the above is there is no difference.  Apparently the neanderthals in the Republican party seem to think that there differences and that some forms of rape are less traumatic and don't lead to pregnancy than others.  This comes as the RNC adopts a plank for their platform banning abortion in all cases, including rape, which of course means that Mitt Romney will run on this.  How Rep. Akin sits on the Science and Technology Committee in Congress is itself a wonder.  If this is the Republican party of 2012, then thank goodness I'm voting for Obama-Biden.

bellaluna30
bellaluna30

This whole war on women's reproductive rights makes me profoundly irritated.  Do these idiots actually BELIEVE the fiction they're spouting?

I mean, "Science" IS in the title of the House Committee on which this man serves...

Donna P. Lack
Donna P. Lack

Religious fanatics are religious fanatics, no matter what religion they practice, and they are a threat to a free society. Separation of church and state allows you to believe whatever crazy thing you want but protects me from having you impose it on me. The Republican party better wise up and divest itself of the Christian taliban that has usurped it before they are laughed out of existence.

SteveLott
SteveLott

You have said a mouthful Sister Lack, just dont expect to get to say it at Shariapublican Convention, or the Church of X. You might offend some powerful hypocrite being entertained by prostitutes. It has become Sharia -esque in many parts of the country, they call these places Red States. You will find forced worship blasting via PA systems into peoples yards and public parks. This the stance on choice and others have opened the gateway to Shariapublican oppressions of all free will forms.

Our country was founded in movement called the age of reason, by people wise enough not to name a favored Deity or belief system in the Constitution and expressly prevented the adding of it. Protecting that would be truly conservative. The work being done to undo that beginning, will do more  to ebb the strength of our country when that pillar falls than any other issue.

These dark factions that would deny rights to women in the name of any religious notion, will not stop with that right or women.

Diana Maras
Diana Maras

Republicans are like any other politician - they will pretend to believe whatever gets them the most votes and money. Religion breeds stupidity and there are a lot of stupid people so of course the republicans are going to farm that fertile land. Whenever you hear a republican say something this stupid you can bet your arse that it's fundraising season. Sure, there may be some republicans who are truly against abortion but only until their mistress shows up pregnant than they're the first one to offer a coat hanger.

johnston1212
johnston1212

This guy doesn't understand how bad rape is. Put his foot in mouth and he should really eat his own shoe. Having said that haven't seen too many republicans blowing them selves up lately. Bad comparison Taliban to republicans.

Clell65619
Clell65619

Comparing the Taliban to Republicans of Akin's ilk is a bad comparison and is totally unfair to the Taliban.  They, at least, have the courage of their convictions, while the Akins of the world prefer to snipe at others and claim they 'misspoke'.

avatar139
avatar139

 No, but I've seen plenty of shooting sprees and attacks on abortion clinics...

johnston1212
johnston1212

You have actually seen plenty of them. Eye witness account have you, tsk, tsk. No lying on the forum.

S
S

Only the desperate blow themselves up. American terrorism uses high tech weaponry instead. It is no different to impose your will through suicide bombing or through guided bombs and missiles.

johnston1212
johnston1212

Only the jihad crazy blow themselves up.

Byst1nder
Byst1nder

 But in some ways, it is true. Because they are the same as the Taliban when forcing other people to do what they want because of religious belief. God gave us the will to do whatever we want, when we want it. God himself even have not force us to do what he wants. (If he did, the world would have been a better place - but I digress). So who gave this people to force women to do what they want...

It is up to us to uphold God / Christ's teaching or not, as it will be our soul that will burn in hell or stay in heaven.

Byst1nder
Byst1nder

 @facebook-653988227:disqus . At the end, are we not responsible for our own actions? Yes, we have instituted laws that would deem actions to be "illegal". But there are many crimes perpetuated that were never resolved, that have not been persecuted. There are even crimes that happens in front of our eyes, which we do not take actions as they are sanctioned...but by whom - it is not by God.

But in time of final judgement, all will be responsible and will receive the judgement from God.

Michelle Janowiecki
Michelle Janowiecki

 I'm sorry but according to that logic- absolutely nothing should be illegal. Is that really what you think?