Monday, August 20, 2012

'legitmate rape' is a worldview, not a gaffe

It wasn't a gaffe when Todd Akin explained to Charles Jaco yesterday that an exception for rape is unnecessary.  "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."

That a woman cannot become pregnant from a true rape has been the stock in trade of the anti-abortion movement for years.   TPM reader 'SR' wrote in to explain:
Growing up, my political affiliations were tied to the political views of my parents, as they are for most people. My dad was apolitical, while my mom was a single-issue voter: Pro-Life. St. Louis is a very Catholic, very Pro-Life town, or at least it was in the 80s and 90s, when we lived there and participated in all of the marches and pickets. So, I grew up awash in the Pro-Life reasoning, and this idea of “real rape” (typically defined as the stranger assaulting the victim in a violent manner) preventing pregnancy was the standard response to the Pro-Choice argument about making exceptions for rape and incest.
This morning the TPM staff started doing some digging and discovered that in fact, this has standard response for victims of rape going back to at least 1988. 
In 1988, Stephen Freind, a state representative in Pennsylvania, defended his no-exceptions anti-abortion stance — as Akin was doing Sunday — by claiming that it was virtually impossible for a woman who is raped to become pregnant. “The odds are one in millions and millions and millions,” Freind said in a debate in March of that year. “And there is a physical reason for that.” Freind said that women possess a “certain secretion” that kills sperm. “Rape, obviously, is a traumatic experience. When that traumatic experience is undergone, a woman secretes a certain secretion, which has a tendency to kill sperm.” Freind promised to provide scientific documentation of his theory and told a cheering crowd later that month, “If you’re expecting me to back off, the answer is no.”
Still waiting on that scientific documentation.

And in case you have not figured it out, the core of this argument is incredibly misogynistic.  A woman could only get pregnant, if she wanted it, so don't concern yourself with any crys of 'rape'.  The only rape this movement acknowledges is the kind of violent rape that happens at the hand of a stranger.  If your daddy gets you pregnant? Well, you clearly wanted it or it wouldn't have happened.

And this is not an antiquated view either. As recently as last year Paul Ryan teamed up with Todd Akin to redefine rape as what Akin called "legitimate rape" and what he and Ryan called "forcible rape".  The 'she wanted it' misogynistic view was at the very core of that legislation.

This gets to the heart of what I've always found so offensive about the anti-abortion movement.  Far too many view an unwanted baby as a Scarlet Letter -- God's punishment for a sinful life. I understand that there are people of good will within the anti-abortion movement, but we never seem to hear from them.

This is the Republican party in 2012.  How much longer can people of good will continue to make excuses for this party so steeped in ignorance and ugliness?  You either oppose them, or you are part of the problem. 

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