Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

Legitimate Rape-gate’s ‘Akin Plank’ Clobbers V.P. Candidate Paul Ryan

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Democrats are calling “no exemptions for rape victims” the “Akin Plank” of the 2012 Republican Party platform — no matter how peevishly Mitt Romney demands that rape cases remain exempt from the GOP’s customary call for a constitutional ban on abortions.

In the irony to beat all ironies, “Governor Ultrasound” — Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, who wanted to be vice-president so badly that he dropped the “mandate” from the ultrasound bill that had made his nickname a household word — ended up chairing the GOP’s platform committee. Having flubbed his shot at national office, McDonnell re-upped the anti-exemption plank during the same week that GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin made the rape issue a bigger headache for Romney’s chosen veep candidate than it probably ever would have been for McDonnell.

Todd Akin/AP

Akin, the Senate wannabe, opened a copious can of worms this week on the topic that never fails to trip up Republican candidates, primarily because they can’t stop bringing it up. The resulting abortion flap has entangled GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and brought the Republican “war on women” roaring back to life.

The buzz about Missouri Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill was that she really wanted to run against Todd Akin, so she ponied up for GOP primary ads calling Akin “too conservative.” After winning the primary, Akin spoke two bewildering words during a St. Louis TV interview that could help McCaskill and the Democratic Party hang on to their Senate majority: “legitimate rape.”

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors,” Akin said, that pregnancy resulting from rape is “really rare. If it’s a ‘legitimate’ rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

A puzzled America heaved a collective sigh and chorused: WTF?

‘Real women’ (i.e., decent ones) ‘ don’t get pregnant from rape’

Paul Ryan

Things only got worse when Akin tried to explain, to the dozens of reporters who subsequently besieged him, what in God’s name he was talking about. Aiming for specificity, he fell back on religious-right claptrap from legislation he had co-sponsored in January 2011 with numerous House members, including Paul Ryan — H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” bill, designed to severely restrict government funding for abortions covered by the rape and incest exemptions provided by the 1976 Hyde Amendment,  a semi-truce between abortion rights supporters and pro-life forces that has defined rape and incest for the past 36 years.

By redefining rape  as “forcible rape” and incest as “incest “with a minor”, GOP culture warriors could exclude from taxpayer-funded coverage all abortions of pregnancies resulting from:

  • Statutory rape (sex with underaged partners, whether forced or “willing”);
  • Coerced rape (any rape that occurs without the victim’s consent or against her will, whether the rapist is a date, an acquaintance, a stranger met in a bar, or an ex-husband or ex-partner);
  • Rape of a woman with limited mental capacity or mental instability;
  • Rape of an unconscious woman or one impaired by drugs or alcohol;
  • Incest with anyone over 18 years old.

Akin’s notion that female physiology prevents  “forcible” (i.e., “legitimate”) rape from resulting in pregnancy came from a 1972 article written by Dr. Fred Mecklenburg, then a medical school professor. Ever since Mecklenburg argued that a traumatized rape victim “will not ovulate even if she is ‘scheduled’ to,” anti-abortion activists have based their argument that no rape exceptions to abortion bans are necessary on Mecklenburg’s theories, which are partly based on horrific experiments conducted at Nazi death camps.

I gathered that Akin (who, incredibly, sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology) wasn’t speaking entirely for himself and didn’t mean “okay” when he said “legitimate.” What he did mean, however, was equally offensive and a classic example of circular reasoning. Women who claim they were impregnated during rape weren’t really raped, the theory goes, because it’s nearly impossible for a woman to get pregnant during “forcible” rape — the only kind of unwanted sexual assault that ever befalls virtuous women wearing proper, unprovocative attire.

If your “forcible” attacker isn’t holding a knife to your throat, and you really resist him by issuing unholy screams, kicking him in the “man-parts,” or resorting to strategic eye-gouging (things a woman who wasn’t “asking for it” would always do), then some mysterious bodily mechanism dispensing spermicidal “secretions” kicks in, and voila! — you don’t get knocked up!

Terry O'Neill of NOW

Therefore, as Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, summarized the theory’s flawless logic, if a woman does get pregnant, then by definition, “she cannot have been raped.” (This lunacy is even more disheartening when you factor in the National Women’s Law Center’s grim statistics: At least 32,000 American women per year are impregnated by their rapists (very likely a lowball number, since an estimated 54 percent of rapes aren’t reported .)

What conservative politicians don’t appear to know about human anatomy is staggering. The “forcible rape” canard is junk-science propaganda devised by anti-abortion radicals and partisan quacks like Dr. John Willke (once president of the National Right to Life Committee), who were enlisted to boost the religious right’s agenda. Willke, who has written several books about this theory and is considered something of a “guru” to the pro-life movement, is another of Akin’s unnamed sources of medical expertise. During his last presidential run in 2008, Mitt courted and won Willke’s endorsement.

Akin’s pro-life demagoguery is part of a coordinated attempt to “redefine” rape, incest, threats to a pregnant woman’s life, the inception of human life, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and similar issues over which the GOP’s evangelical Christian wing continually pressures the party to slide rightward. Akin’s “House-mate,” fellow culture warrior Paul Ryan, with whom the Missouri Tea Partier has co-sponsored dozens of anti-abortion bills, is up to his ears in this anti-women crusade – and Romney is trying to keep women voters from finding out about it.

‘Bruises don’t define rape; the lack of consent does’
House Republicans, as ever consumed with controlling women’s bodies instead of creating jobs, proposed their failed bill in order to keep women they perceived as rape-victim “posers” (my term, not theirs) from trying to trick Medicaid into paying for “non-exemptible” abortions. The Old Boys’ Club of conservative white men who control Congress believe that women who claim to have “gotten pregnant from rape” really engaged in something that ardent pro-lifers privately term “consensual rape.”

H.R. 3’s sponsors were cagey enough to refrain from putting that explosive terminology in the bill, but the language of “forcible rape” proved so horrific to women’s rights advocates and the public that activist groups MoveOn.org and EMILY’s List started an online petition campaign to pressure the House to remove it. “Bruises and broken bones do not define rape,” the petition stated. “A lack of consent does.” Republicans had to delete the offending definition entirely. (The propagandists had been saying it for so long, they had no idea how bizarre and scary it would sound to normal people.)

Not all rapes may technically be “forcible” — but do pro-lifers really believe they shouldn’t be classified as rape? Would they want their teenaged daughters to bear the children of adult predators — or of their own grandfathers, brothers, or uncles — which happens entirely too often, in families of all social classes? A national study found that the majority of rape-related pregnancy cases “occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often-related perpetrator.” One-half of all pregnancies in under-aged girls are caused by adult men. That sounds frighteningly “forcible” to me.

These caveats are “distinctions without a difference” in the convoluted world view of Ryan, Akin, et. al., who believe that all abortions should be criminalized. The only exception that Ryan says he makes is for emergency abortions performed solely to save the life of the mother — even though he voted for H.R. 358  (called the “Let Women Die Act” by women’s rights groups), which would permit hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortion procedures on women who would die without them.

‘Legitimate Rape-gate’ exposes Ryan’s radical social agenda

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney desperately wanted the “GOP war on women” trope to evaporate. Indeed, without the constant media attention to abortion and birth control, the gap in women voters’ approval between Romney and Obama had shrunk to only 15 points — before “Legitimate Rape-gate” propelled the issue onto the front burner again.

Establishment Republicans jumped all over Akin, calling his statement “dumb” because it exposed their backroom culture-war machinations and Paul Ryan’s involvement in them. Desperately hoping to isolate the Romney/Ryan ticket from “AkinPain,” the party blamed it all on the poor sucker whose comments had gone viral. Karl Rove unceremoniously yanked every cent of expected Crossroads GPS funding from the campaign coffers of the party scapegoat. GOP poobahs, from Mitch McConnell to Scott Brown to Kelly Ayotte, called for Akin to abandon his Senate run. But a defiant Akin skipped out on the official deadline for quitting the election, vowing to soldier on alone.

The “Double-R” Republicans at the top of the ticket were also quick to throw Akin’s candidacy under the bus. “Indefensible!” chortled Tweedle-Rom, flanked by Tweedle-Ry, during a local TV appearance. Mealy-Mouthed Mitt did all the pandering so Forcible-Rape Ryan wouldn’t have to publicly contradict his own orthodoxy.

“A Romney/Ryan administration wouldn’t oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Mitt wheedled, madly spinning an issue that, by the following day, had become a Mitt-averse plank of the Republican Party platform. The entire country knew that Mitt was “at odds” with his own party’s national platform.

Throughout Mitt’s sanctimonious denunciation — as if Akin were alone in his insensitivity to American women — a sheepish Veepster gazed gratefully at his personal “white knight,” the only man on earth who could prevent a hostile takeover of Ryan by his own past.

My husband, Lance, and I watched as Mitt, like the perennially apologetic father of Dennis the Menace, groveled to half of the electorate over Little Paulie’s wayward baseball. Lance put words in Mitt’s mouth:

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Wilson. My son will pay for the broken window.”