Rep. Todd Akin has, unwittingly to be sure, harmed the pro-life movement, his senatorial race in Missouri, the Republican Party, and therefore quite possibly the nation.
Every person who speaks or writes for the public will make an occasional faux pas, and sooner or later, will write or say something inappropriate. The game of “gotcha” that the media play — especially with regard to Republicans and conservatives — is what makes so many politicians sound robotic when they speak.
On a Missouri TV program Sunday, he was asked his position on abortion in cases of rape. Akin responded, in part, that “from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
While he should not have used the term “legitimate rape,” he could have explained later that, given the expanded definitions of rape, not all claims of “rape” are truly rape. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry for Feminist Perspectives on Rape states, for example, that “we must recognize that, in some cases, ‘yes’ also means no … The man may threaten to sue for custody of their children, to derail her green card application, to evict her, or simply to sulk and make her life miserable for days should she refuse to have sex. Which (if any) of such nonviolent coercive pressures should be regarded as rape, either morally or legally, is a matter of some controversy.”
That would have largely ended the issue. And he could have further noted that Republicans generally incline toward harsher penalties for violent crime than do Democrats.
The far greater problem was Congressman Akin‘s other comment: “From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy is] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
As one wit put it about such a comment: that was worse than wrong, it was stupid.
Akin should say so.
And so should the pro-life movement.
Unless — and this would be upsetting — he, and the movement, don’t think this comment was stupid.
Pregnancy from rape is rare because a “woman’s body shuts down”?
Who told Akin this? And why would he believe it, even if some doctor did tell him this?
Here is my theory.