“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Rep. Todd Akin, in defending his stance against an exception for bans on abortions for survivors of rape and incest, claimed that women who are raped don’t get pregnant.
There are so many things wrong with this horrifying sentence that it is hard to know where to begin. Here are my top 5:
- A Member of the United States Congress uttered it.
- The suggestion of “legitimate” rape. I’m not even sure what that means. My guess is that Akin meant a rape by a stranger. The idea that the only “real rape” is one by a stranger jumping out from behind the bushes is an outdated myth that for years was used to keep women from pursuing justice through the legal system. It also suggests that if a woman who was raped got pregnant, she must have somehow “wanted it” or else her body’s super-pregnancy stopping powers would have kicked in. In fact, the mere phrasing he chose, “legitimate rape” is disturbing in itself. It sounds like there are some rapes that are OK, legal . . . . you know, legitimate.
- The idea that women’s bodies have a way to stop themselves from getting pregnant while they are being raped. I don’t know where to begin on this one. Don’t people have to take biology to graduate high school? This may be the craziest thing made up about women’s bodies since Foster Friess suggested that putting an aspirin between your legs was a viable form of birth control. Since it seems I actually have to say it, Akin’s statement is false.
- Someone who claims to know so little about women’s basic biology has a voice in setting women’s health policy. If women’s bodies can just “shut that whole thing down” then of course they don’t need abortion, or birth control either. So, what’s the harm in voting against it? The House this year has voted on de-funding Planned Parenthood, creating a loop-hole that lets bosses make decisions about women’s contraceptive coverage, and on a variety of restrictions on abortion. It is nice to know that Rep. Akin has educated himself on the issues on which he votes.
- That it reveals that Akin’s views on abortion stem from his extreme beliefs about women. Akin’s campaign quickly issued a “correction” about Akin’s comments, and said that of course he is sympathetic to victims of rape, but that he is committed to protecting life. Which is what those who oppose abortion always say when they think others are listening. In an unguarded moment, Akin gave us a peak into what he really thinks. A “good” woman (e.g., one who was “legitimately” raped) wouldn’t need an abortion. Her body would automatically stop a pregnancy from happening. Of course.
I don’t know which is worse, that leaders of the far right lie about women in order to justify their extreme ideology or that some of them may actually believe these fictions. Either way, this incident is just the latest reminder that there is a war on women’s health. And those fighting it really have no compunction at all about how they go about waging it.