Our media-saturated culture conditions boys and men to dehumanize and disrespect women in magazines, television, and film and in everyday life. The message is clear. Womanizing is about power and privilege, a sense of entitlement. And in religion and politics, we see the same culture of misogyny. The latest comes from Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin. Akin, who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape, said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Mr. Aiken, oddly enough, is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, yet he uses non-scientific reasoning to perpetrate one of the most offensive and ignorant campaign season’s comments yet. To wit a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that states, “an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year,” in the United States, meaning that about 5 percent of women who are raped do become pregnant. And of that 5 percent, 50% choose to abort the pregnancy. Imagine—Science defying the logic of the GOP.
Beyond what Akin said is the logic that informed his gaffe. If you get pregnant, it wasn’t rape. That’s it. If you are violently and sexually penetrated by a rapist’s penis, against your will, and you are impregnated, then it wasn’t rape. But even beyond that logic is his unquestionable stance against abortions for any reason; hence, he believes if you get pregnant, you should carry the pregnancy to term.
This faux science is not new. In fact, his canard has been floating around the anti abortion Republicans for some time. Let’s go back to 1998 and a statement from Fay Boozman, the late Fay Boozman of Arkansas. He was running for U.S. Senate, and he said fear-induced hormonal changes could block a rape victim’s ability to conceive. In 1995, North Carolina State Representative Henry Aldridge said, “The facts show that people who are raped, who are truly raped, the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant.” Then there’s a similar statement from 1988. Pennsylvania Republican State Representative Steven Friend said, “The odds of a woman becoming pregnant through rape are one in millions and millions and millions.” He said, “The trauma of rape causes women to secrete a certain secretion which has a tendency to kill sperm.” One has to notice the covert message that almost excuses the perpetrators and blames the victims of sexual violence.
I’m reminded of an incident at an Allentown PA abortion clinic where a mother and daughter were verbally accosted by a particularly aggressive protester. The mother told the man that her daughter was raped. And rather than back off or show some modicum of compassion, he screamed,“If the child was conceived in rape that’s the way God wanted it.” [see video]. Essentially, disregard the violence. Disregard her pain. Disregard her humanity. Fr. Frank Pavone said essentially the same thing in an interview years back. He claimed (and still does) the mother was harmed once. Abortion would harm her again and kill her unborn. Again, no regard for the violence, no regard for the woman, no regard for what the woman wants.
The fact remains that Todd Akin will never know what it means to be a woman, to be trapped in a bed, shoved down on a parking garage staircase, or tied to pole in an abandoned basement. He’ll never know what it’s like to be violently assaulted by some aggressive, indifferent friend or stranger or relative. He’ll not know what it feels like having someone gag you, rip off your clothes and enter your most personal, sacred, private part of your body and do so violently, hatefully forcing himself into you, ripping you apart, filling you with unwanted sperm, and knowing you cannot escape the thing growing inside of you. Todd Aiken will never experience being a woman who is pregnant from a rapist and being told you have no choice. Yet, I’m betting, he’s pretty self-righteous when he says women should have no choice.
Like the majority of the GOP, including the Vice President hopeful Paul Ryan, Todd Akin’s message is clear: No abortion for you! Your body is to support the rapist’s fetus against your will. And when you see the face of the rapist in that child, you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.
My sense is that this debacle is further evidence of what is known as the GOP’s war on women. But right-wing media figures have downplayed and dismissed Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s controversial remarks on rape and abortion, calling them “dumb” and a distraction. The public response to Akin’s comments more or less drove him to offer a feigned apology. I say feigned because it now it appears that, all the while, the people really in charge of the GOP—fundamentalist anti-choicers among them—have been writing a party platform that not only makes all of that a lie, but is in effect a promise to make the personhood of fertilized eggs the law of the land.
The draft official platform strongly supports a “a human life amendment” to the Constitution:
Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed, the draft platform declares. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
Let’s be very, very clear that such an amendment—which Mitt Romney has said unequivocally he would sign—would not only criminalize abortions of any kind for any reason, but also would outlaw many forms of contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and treatment of pregnant women with life-threatening conditions such as cancer. Moreover, it would also criminalize miscarriage.
It’s the central position of the GOP controlled by fundamentalists who believe women have no rights. Which side of history will you be on?