Rachel Maddow, God bless her, has tried and tried to educate the men in politics and power about the whys and wherefores of women’s anatomy. She has her crew bring out the props — pennants, football helmets, brewskies — to help her enter the Man Cave, replete with a CGI backdrop of a pool table, a bar, and wood paneling. In this cozy, non-threatening environment, she has attempted to explain how the Pill works (hint: you don’t take it to prevent pregnancies after having sex), how women require periodic maintenance on their “lady parts” in the same way a car needs an oil change every 3000 miles, and so forth. Despite her best efforts, many men remain ignorant about the whole vagina, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes thing. They undoubtedly understand their own role in how reproduction works, but these guys are actors who only read their own lines, and not those of their fellow cast members.
Sunday brought about yet another example of how male ignorance about women’s role in reproduction leads to bad policy, bad politics, and just plain bad. The actor this time is Missouri senatorial candidate Republican Todd Akin. To wit:
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in a clip posted to YouTube by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Quoted from the Washington Post, August 19, 2012
Sticking to biology, of course this is patent nonsense. Just as HIV infects indiscriminately and not on the basis of race, age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity, healthy sperm can cause pregnancies in women with healthy reproductive organs. Not each instance of HIV exposure will lead to seroconversion and not each instance of sex will lead to pregnancy, but these are biological processes well outside of the control of any human being. There are ways to try to prevent HIV transmission and pregnancies — i.e., condoms — but absent any attempts to stop the process, the results are nearly guaranteed. So that bit about “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” business beggars the imagination. If that were true, there would be no need for the Pill, condoms, diaphragms, or any other process or device to prevent pregnancy.
But then we get to the other part, which of course gets us to the real nitty gritty of the offense of Akin’s statement. What the hell is a legitimate rape? Well, if we follow current conservative orthodoxy, it’s any rape that occurs with violence. In other words, when one partner is coerced into having sex, but isn’t physically forced into the act, then it’s not “legitimate” rape. Sounds offensive? Well, as many commentators have already noted, this is exactly the line current Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan tried to push through the House just last year. He joined other Republicans, including Akin, in trying to change the definition of rape so that legally only “forcible rape” rapes are real rapes. And by extension, in this particular bill, only victims of these “real rapes” can receive federal funding for abortions. Fortunately, the bill failed.
President Obama came out with a statement that put the whole thing into perspective:
“Rape is rape,” the president said. “And the idea that we should be parsing, qualifying and slicing what qualifies as rape doesn’t make sense to me and doesn’t make sense to the American people…. What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of pols, the majority of whom are men, making health-care decisions on behalf of women.”
-MSNBC, August 20, 2012 – Watch the video here
The President, of course, is exactly right. And shame on anyone who disagrees or tries to change the language in Orwellian ways to redefine rape to fit their agenda when it comes to abortions.
Akin has stated today, so far, that he is not leaving the race, that everyone is entitled to one mistake. He’s getting a lot of heat from his own peeps, though, and another rumor circulating widely states that he’ll step down from his Senate race tomorrow. In either case, whether he stays in the race or not, the conversation needs to continue and the war on women needs to stop. Todd Akin should not become the scapegoat for Republican’s collective failure to treat women’s reproductive health in a serious or respectful manner. Women are part of humanity. Their health needs need to be addressed and accommodated consistently nationwide, without fear of reprisals or intimidation. This includes all the health matters involving the “lady parts” that so many male politicians seem to have problems with.
If Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and the rest of them want to truly distance themselves from Akin’s hideous remarks, they’ll stop their own attacks on women’s reproductive healthcare, immediately.
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.