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GUEST COMMENTARY: Akin apologized for his wording, not for his message

Saturday, October 20, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CDT

We have all seen the paid advertisements featuring Todd Akin’s apology for his statements about rape and reproduction. I am concerned that the true importance of Todd Akin’s now infamous statement: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” has been lost in the flurry of spin doctors who rushed in to interpret it for political purposes. Yes, Congressman Akin apologized, but primarily for his wording, not for the ideas behind it. His wording was neither accidental nor isolated. Until he admits that, then there is no real apology.

Todd Akin was part of a large group of pro-life legislators, including Congressman Paul Ryan, that sought to distinguish between “forcible rape” and something else, (non-forcible rape?) in legislation limiting a woman’s right to choose whether or not to carry a baby to term. Congressman Akin’s comments are part of a concerted campaign orchestrated by those who are uncomfortable with abortion in cases of rape, to rhetorically minimize the possibility that conception occurs as a result of rape.

Comments by Congressman Akin’s former colleagues show that his remarks were not isolated. Take Republican representative Stephen Freind’s comments on the subject:  the odds that a woman who is raped will get pregnant are "one in millions and millions and millions.” He was the politician who drove pro-choice Republican Sen. Arlen Specter out of the Republican Party. Or take North Carolina Republican Rep. Henry Aldridge: “The facts show that people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work, and they don’t get pregnant.” It is hard to believe that intelligent men could make such statements.

The worst part of Congressman Akin’s statement is the implication that a woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape was not really raped. It is explicit in Aldridge’s statement and implicit in Akin’s. Adding to the horrors of rape are the suspicions being cast on pregnant women seeking abortions rather than carry their rapists’ children to term, by people with very limited knowledge of human biology. 

This too is made more explicit in the comments of Idaho Republican legislator Chuck Winder: “I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape."

"Medical authorities agree that it is a rarity if ever," Aldridge said. "To get pregnant, it takes a little cooperation. And there ain’t much cooperation in a rape.” I am curious which medical authorities argued that. Are they licensed physicians?

But it is not just a case of ignorance of biology that is the problem. One has to wonder why these legislators were unaware of the use of rape as a means of terrorizing civilian populations in Bangladesh, Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo, Uganda and many other places.  In all of these countries, women were repeatedly raped until they showed visual signs of being pregnant, at which point they were left alone to carry the babies of not only their rapists, but of one national group seeking domination over the nation of the women who were raped. So Hutus raped and impregnated Tutsis in Rwanda, Bosnian Serbs raped Bosnian Muslims and impregnated them in the former Yugoslavia. They were left alone, often infected with AIDS and too often shunned by the men of their communities. Do these congressmen ever read the newspaper? How could they be so unaware of the use of rape as a weapon of war?

Now, Congressmen Akin wants to be a U.S. senator. Senators vote on international treaties. Can we trust someone who is unaware of the use of violence against women as a weapon of war to deliberate on matters of international human rights?

Congressman Akin has already embarrassed the people of Missouri by his ignorant statements on matters of rape and reproduction. He has also embarrassed the House Science Committee of which he is a member. Perhaps, Congressman Akin should focus his plans on getting an education in biology, ethics and human relations rather than seeking to be a representative of Missouri on a national stage.

Robert M. Baum is an African historian and historian of religions and has heard testimony about rape as a deliberate act of war in several different countries. He lives in Columbia.


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Comments

Derrick Fogle October 20, 2012 | 5:56 p.m.

The fact this man is on the science & technology committee is proof positive our supposed system of representation has completely run amok. This man has no business being a representative of the people, and he especially has no business being on any kind of science committee. Todd Akin's fitting place would be living under a rock. That's exactly where the voters need to send this selfish-righteous control freak.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 20, 2012 | 10:09 p.m.

Derrick: You need to understand that many of us find progressive arguments about a variety of things to be just as repulsive and repugnant as you think of Akin's notions. It would be soooo easy for me to slightly modify your post and apply it quite nicely to several progressive politicians, and spell out the reasons why, to boot. Hell, I could even modify it to apply to some opinion writers for this very newspaper!

(Hint, not the Colonel)

PS: I am truly dismayed that Akin is the conservative choice. He should have taken himself out of the race. I am quite surprised that he has continued to climb in the polls to the point where he just may win the damn thing. I'm beginning to think this trend shows less about how folks think about Akin and more about what they think of McCaskill.

I think that trend applies to me as well.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle October 21, 2012 | 1:31 p.m.

I see Akin's staying power as little more than a figurehead of the surge in a larger, distinct ugliness and irrationality in our society. What Akin stands for, and the fact that he has significant support, is incredibly sad and disappointing to me.

I actually talk about equivalency a lot. Not always in those terms, but what are words like hypocrisy, and duplicity, or the use of sarcasm, but another look at equivalency?

I seem to make a lot more connections, see a lot more equivalencies, than most.

On the issue of abortion, I do a little research and discover an interesting fact: Nearly half of all fertilized human embryos, "conceptions" or "Human Life" as abortion opponents want to call them, never even implant into the uterus, and just get flushed right out in the next menstrual cycle. I've found one source as low as 35% (did not reference underlying study), and 3 other medical studies indicating 45-50%. Hmmm... so much for the "sanctity of every conception" meme.

We also have a pretty good idea of the spontaneous abortion rate of conceptions that do implant: it starts low, around 15-20% at the onset of fertility, and follows a typical inverted pareto curve pattern, reaching 25% in the mid 30's, and shooting up to as high as 80% just before menopause. Median and average are in the 23-25% range. Spontaneous miscarriages outnumber human induced abortions by up to 50%.

Doing the math, it turns out whatever "God" there is, kills over 7 million precious unborn babies in the US every year. Human biological reproduction has a natural failure rate of nearly 70%.

Here's where equivalency comes in: This "God" has a 6:1 unborn baby kill ratio vs humans.

Yes, there is equivalency here. And, for those that don't see it, hypocrisy and duplicity. I'm not just condemning Todd Akin; I'm condemning the entire irrational thought process concerning abortion that he stands for. Anyone who buys it is a fool.

This is where I get the "Wallz In Their Brainz" meme: How can people not understand this connection? How can you condemn and promote violence toward the 1, without questioning the 6? I've come to the conclusion that a lot of people just have really strong mental "walls" in their brains that block them from going anywhere near these ideologically problematic equivalencies.

If seeing connections and equivalencies where others don't makes me a "liberal" then I'm a liberal. If not seeing these equivalencies is what makes one a conservative, then conservatism is irrational and corrupt.

(Report Comment)

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