Merlene Davis: Politicians' misconceptions about rape are insulting to all of us

Herald-Leader columnistAugust 20, 2012 

I'm having all kinds of problems with the statement that Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate from Missouri, made Sunday evening.

When asked by a reporter to explain his anti-abortion stance, even in the case of a pregnancy resulting from rape, Akin said: "It seems to me, 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. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."

Obviously I skipped that day in Human Biology 101 when the professor explained that female rape victims need not worry about getting pregnant.

Are you kidding me? Where do folks come up with this insanity?

If a woman's body chemistry can react differently when experiencing rape or consensual sex, no one told me. If a woman's body could "shut that whole thing down" for any reason, the manufacturers of various forms of birth control would go belly-up.

So, let's just assume that Akin "misspoke," as he later said he had done. He must have heard it somewhere and, without conducting any research, simply repeated it as fact.

Could happen to anyone.

But what is Akin's definition of "legitimate rape?" What is that? And what is the direct opposite? Illegitimate rape?

Akin never explains that, not even in the clarification he issued. Some have said he really meant "forcible rape."

Back in 2011, Republicans in the House of Representatives came up with the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. In it, they tried to place the wording forcible rape into the bill in order to narrow the types of abortions that could be paid for. With that focus, only "forcible rape" and incest would be covered by Medicaid. The resulting pregnancies of children too young to consent, victims of statutory rape, would not.

A public outcry ensued, and the wording was changed to rape.

Akin and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential hopeful, both signed on as sponsors with the original wording, along with more than 200 other Republicans.

So if Akin really meant "forcible" instead of "legitimate," then why include it in the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act at all?

There would be little need to pay for those terminations because the woman's body, according to Akin, "has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," right?

I'm really not going to get into why women have to have cuts and bruises to prove they were raped, to prove that the sexual advances were unwanted. If there are no signs of struggle, the woman must have wanted it, and the resulting pregnancy. Otherwise, that body-shutdown mechanism would have been activated.

Lord have mercy.

I'd rather talk about Akin's final words. If pregnancy does result from a rape, Akin said, "I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."

Hello! Anyone home? What about the punishment being inflicted on the innocent woman by the rapist? What role does the rape victim play in that scenario? Does the woman, who was legitimately or forcibly raped, simply go on with her life as though the baby she is carrying doesn't resurrect horrifying, beastly and detestable memories every time it kicks? Isn't that punishment for her?

To voice concerns for the rapist and his unborn child while ignoring the victim is simply abhorrent and incomprehensible.

There are rumblings afoot by members of the Republican Party to replace Akin with someone less Neanderthal, someone of this century. His Democratic opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, has been 10 points behind all potential opponents in the polls, so replacing Akin would be a good move for them.

Even Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his running mate, Ryan, issued a statement saying they would not be opposed to abortion when rape is involved, which is a lane change for both of them.

I hope it is a sincere one.

The last thing women need in a time of job loss and scarce money is a politician who doesn't acknowledge that we exist except for our reproductive organs.

We were unborn babies at one time, too. Now we are voters.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: Merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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