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iceberg with a comb over

August 22, 2012

One of the main reasons I keep up with politics is my curiosity about how deeply a human

can descend into ignorance.  Todd Akin of Missouri, a member of the U.S. House, may now

have the record for general unawareness and political tonedeafness.  James Cameron didn’t

even reach such depth in the Deepsea Challenger.

 

In an August 19th TV interview, Akin was asked if women who have become pregnant from

a rape should be allowed to have abortions.  He replied “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female

body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  Honest, he said that.  And this guy is

a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

 

Akin quickly backed away from this steaming pile, apologizing for having misspoken but not

explaining what qualifies a rape as legitimate.  As people with facts pointed out the stench of

his statement, leading Republicans had no choice but to back away from Akin.  Mitt Romney

even had to take a stand on this.

 

Akin is running for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill and was ahead

in the polls before his gaffe.  However, GOP Senator John Cornyn, chairman of the National

Republican Senatorial Committee, has said that election funding for Akin will be pulled.

 

Akin, whose comical comb over failed to keep this summer’s searing heat from baking his

brain, says he’ll stay in the race.  He passed a deadline yesterday that would have made it

easy to back out.  Now he would have to get a court order and pay for ballot reprinting fees

to do so.

 

The chorus of GOP heavyweights pressuring him to quit include famous Missouri pols John

Danforth, Kit Bond and John Ashcroft. Staunchly conservative, very pro-life John Ashcroft.

 

Akin is now minimizing his comment.  “Well, it just seems that I misspoke one word in one

sentence in one day,” he said on Mike Huckabee’s radio show, “I haven’t done anything that

was morally or ethically wrong . . . it does seem like a little bit of an overreaction.”  He also

faulted spineless Republican leadership and, of course, the usual suspect: liberal media.

 

However Akin’s political career plays out, my larger concern is that he is just the tip of the

conservative iceberg. It would be easy to dismiss him as a rube, but the district he represents

includes some of suburban St. Louis.

 

He’s certainly not alone in his recklessness.  In March, a Republican member of the Kansas

House of Representatives, suggested that women buy separate abortion-only insurance

policies.  “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?” posited Pete DeGraaf, adding “I have

a spare tire on my car.”

 

The March madness continued when Indiana state representative Eric Turner, also from

the GOP, argued that women might lie about rape or incest just to qualify for an abortion.

 

It goes higher.  Rick Santorum, who earlier this year was the frontrunner for the Republican

presidential nomination, told Piers Morgan that pregnant rape victims should “make the best

out of a bad situation”.

 

This lunacy isn’t newly minted.  Social conservatives have been spouting it since at least

1980, when James Leon Holmes, a lawyer lobbying for a constitutional ban on abortion,

claimed that “concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape

occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.”

 

In 1988, Republican Stephen Freind of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives explained

that the odds are “one in millions and millions and millions” because the trauma from the rape

causes a woman to “secrete a certain secretion” that tends to kill sperm.

 

In 1995, North Carolina state representative Henry Aldrich kept these lies alive by telling

the world that “truly raped” people don’t get pregnant because “the juices don’t flow”.  Four

years later, John C. Willke —  a physician and former president of the National Right to Life

Committee — recirculated the same poisoned fruit.

 

Against these incredible odds, about 31,000 women in the U.S. get pregnant from rape

every year.

 

Even if Akin does drop out, his imprint will stay on the presidential campaign.  He and Paul

Ryan, Romney’s pick for Vice-President, cosponsored a bill in the U.S. House in July 2010

to limit federal funding of abortions.  It failed to pass.  When the GOP regained control of the

House, the bill was reintroduced in 2011.

 

Both versions of the bill included the term “forcible rape” as an exception to the funding ban.

When enough people complained, the Representative who wrote the bill, Republican Chris

Smith of New Jersey, removed the word “forcible”.  The bill passed 251 – 175, then languished

in the Senate.

 

Romney and Ryan say they support abortion in cases of rape and incest.  Yet the GOP just

endorsed a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion with no mention of exceptions.  Will

this be a major controversy at next week’s convention?  Even with Mitt Romney involved,

the plot just thickened.

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12 Comments
  1. Gordon permalink
    August 22, 2012 12:16 pm

    And word, on the radio this morning, has it that Willke, who was reported to be Akin’s source for this specific pile, has been a close advisor to Romney since his first run for Prez in 2008. I wonder if that makes “legitimate rape” a new family planning alternative?

    • August 22, 2012 1:06 pm

      Willke reasoned that a woman being raped would be “uptight … frightened, tight and so on … the tubes are spastic.” That’s worse than Ted Steven’s explanation of the internet. The misogyny being highlighted by all this is jawdropping.

  2. summergale permalink
    August 22, 2012 1:05 pm

    I’m not very political but this gaffe even grabbed me. It’s hard to believe and I hope it galvanizes people to care again.

    • August 22, 2012 3:42 pm

      Me, too. I don’t understand how women can vote for a political party that is increasingly aggressive about trying to control them.

  3. August 22, 2012 5:57 pm

    It’s ridiculous that other Republicans are condemning Akin when he is basically just spouting their own platform.

    Julie

    • August 23, 2012 8:41 am

      My point, exactly. Akin’s comment is just an ongoing echo of the GOP’s paternalistic attitude which is getting creakier by the day.

  4. Greg permalink
    August 23, 2012 1:07 pm

    Hi Allen,

    Great blog you’ve got going. Hadn’t checked it out for a while but looks like you’ve really brought it together.

    Far as the Akin controversy goes, I’m right there with you. Just another example of the horrifyingly backwards direction in which some in this country are intent to drag us.

    One little comment on a comment of yours in the blog: You site Repug after Repug basically saying that raped women don’t get pregnant and you add that “Against these incredible odds, about 31,000 women in the U.S. get pregnant from rape every year.” I think that’s part of the point: in addition to reinventing basic biology, these backwards Repugs are also revealing that they believe these 31,000 impregnated women weren’t rape victims at all — “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” after all– but instead women who secretly wanted it. It’s part and parcel of the religious extremist drive to resubordinate women– who obviously cannot even be trusted with their own sex drives– to old time biblical standards.

    Anyway, keep up the good blogging. Mike and I both miss having you and Jude down here in The States. Now we’re missing a couple of our counterbalances to the crazy.

    • August 25, 2012 10:26 am

      Thanks, Greg. It’s heartening to know that you and Mike are still fighting the Good Fight, but disheartening that the Good Fight is going so badly. How people like Akin gain any kind of validation is beyond me. I bet you’re still writing letters to the Press-Democrat.

  5. August 23, 2012 9:15 pm

    well just so we don’t just pick on one republican asshat, how about this guy.. i copied this from some news story.. it is going around facebook now but somehow his name is changed to campbell.. and this happened in january i guess.

    Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield (R) claimed on Thursday that it was nearly impossible to get AIDS through heterosexual sex.

    Sen. Campfield said: “Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community. It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.”

    • August 25, 2012 10:35 am

      It’s disturbing that politicians are willing to repeat misinformation without any attempt to verify it. Jude’s got an elderly aunt who believes all the right-wing tripe that’s sent to her e-mail, but at least she’s a private citizen.

  6. August 25, 2012 8:49 pm

    Oh My Gosh, this just blew me away when I heard it. I think that I was actually speechless for the first time in my life. This guy needs to go back to school and take a class in Sex Education and another in Biology. (And these are the idiots that are up there trying to lead our country). Can they really be so ignorant in such important matters?
    I got in hot water a few months ago when I defended the right for a woman to choose abortion. I am not saying that I would have an abortion, but I support the right for a woman to have the right to choose abortion.
    I swear I do not know what is becoming of our country.

    • August 26, 2012 9:42 am

      Abortion (and related topics) have been the most enduring of all divisive U.S. political issues since well before Roe v. Wade. When I hear willful ignorance like Akin’s, I wonder if it will ever be resolved.

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