UPDATE: Rather than read this post, please link to the “revised and expanded” version, either on the right of your screen or below the video. Thanks! You’ll be glad you did! ;>
Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) is being put through the ringer for recent comments during an interview. Seems to me there are three main things people are objecting to, which I’ll try to parse out.
First, of course, is Akin’s use of the phrase “legitimate rape”. For anyone who has heard/read what he said, it is — well, it should be — clear from the context that Akin was not implying that rape is ever “legitimate” in the sense of being “OK, acceptable, no big deal”. Rather he was using a qualifying statement to differentiate between actual rape (with all the physiological & psychological stress that involves) and those cases in which, for example, the act was consensual but the woman decides later that she was taken advantage of, or possibly she gets pregnant and needs an excuse to explain her awkward situation. Akin is also on record as suggesting that claims of marital-rape can be misused “in a real messy divorce as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband.” (If it happens, then it isn’t insensitive to merely point it out.)
“It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape,” McCaskill said in a statement. “The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive.” (from Washington Post)
The second issue seems to be Akin’s claim that pregnancy rarely results from (real) rape. This objection seems kind of silly to me. Whether you point to the studies that put conception in these circumstances at about 0.1-0.6% or prefer those that make it to be more like 4-5%, it’s still a relatively small percentage — unusual, “rare”. Regardless, it isn’t as if Akin was in any way diminishing the trauma of rape, whether or not it results in a pregnancy.
The third issue appears to be that pro-life Akin does not think an exception should be made for abortions in the case of rape. Even when conception does occur as a result, the unborn child should not be punished by taking its life. The rapist deserves punishment, yes. The child, no.
With that all understood, I totally agree with Rep. Todd Akin’s statement on all three matters. (I’ve blogged on the rape-pregnancy issue here.) Perhaps the first bit was a poor choice of words, but it was, er, legitimate. I’m not surprised that those on the Left would capitalize on this pseudo-gaffe and twist it to their benefit, in hopes of hurting Akin’s reputation and chances against Democrat Claire McCaskill in their race for the Senate.
But, I’m rather disappointed in Senators Cornyn and McConnell (among others) for urging Akin to drop out of his race. Did they actually listen to Akin’s comments in context? Or, are they just running in fear of bad press? (Akin’s gonna get that, anyway. He’s running a political campaign, after all!) It’s issue #3 that seems to be the biggest problem for some conservatives, which some, sadly, deem too far right. The Romney/Ryan camp is distancing itself, saying they “disagree” and “would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” Not too surprising from Romney, but I wouldn’t be surprised if conservative Catholic Ryan has been “forced” to go along.
This all could and should have been handled much better, and there need not have been any discussion about Akin’s dropping out. I even have a problem with his apology, in which he says he “misspoke”. No, he was clear and accurate to anyone who heard/read him in context and was not expecting to be offended or looking for an excuse to bad-mouth the guy. And, he certainly shouldn’t apologize for taking a stand for his position. (Note that the host, Jaco, didn’t seem flabbergasted at Akin’s remarks.) At worst, he’s guilty of not being cautious enough.* For example, he could have used “valid” or “actual”, instead of “legitimate”, and maybe a parenthetical aside like “(as opposed to a false accusation of rape)”. But, he probably would still have been accused of not being sensitive enough, or something.
And, of course, it’s not like the Left need an excuse for bashing a pro-lifer for waging a “war against women”.
* I also wish Akin had done a better job of clarifying that ending a “tubal pregnancy” (aka ectopic) is technically not the same as an abortion. There is no medical procedure that can save the life of the child, and the mother will die if s/he isn’t removed. The objective is to save as many lives as possible, not end one for matters of convenience.