“Legitimate Rape” — Really?

Image Credit: (c) Xebeche — istockphoto.com

“It is better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.”

That’s an aphorism that Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri should have considered before he made what is undoubtedly the most thoughtless and outrageous statement of this year’s political campaigns.

Apparently trying to justify his rejection of abortion in cases of rape, Rep. Akin said that, in cases of “legitimate rape,” a woman’s body had ways of preventing pregnancy.

What struck me wasn’t the obvious stupidity of the statement that women’s bodies can somehow distinguish between types of rape and thus prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Granted, that was bad; however, the phrase “legitimate rape” was far worse.

Why?

Because Akin appears to be blaming women who become pregnant after a rape.

How else can you read his statement? If women’s bodies are able to prevent pregnancy after a “legitimate” (read that, “real”) rape, then the women who do become pregnant must not really have been raped. In other words, they must have cooperated with the rapist.

Blaming the victims of rape is nothing new, but Rep. Akin has taken it to a new level. Now it’s not only a woman’s fault if she’s raped, it’s apparently also her fault if she becomes pregnant. If it had been a “legitimate rape” (read that, “If she’d resisted”), her body would have prevented the pregnancy.

The saddest part of all this, at least for Rep. Akin, is that he could have avoided a tsunami of negative publicity if he’d merely said what he believed without trying to justify it.

All he had to say was something like, “I believe all human life is sacred and that abortion is wrong, even in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape.” No explanation needed.

Many people still would not have liked what he said, but at least he would not have made himself a laughing stock. And he would have been speaking out of the courage of his convictions.

Instead, he tried to soften his viewpoint by spouting some weird theory about how women’s bodies have an innate ability to prevent pregnancy when raped.

As of this writing, Rep. Akin was still in the Senate race, claiming that he “misspoke” and he’s not a “quitter.”

He probably ought to consider quitting.

I don’t live in Missouri, but if I did, Rep. Akin would have just lost my vote.

And I’m a Republican.

The aphorism I quoted at the beginning of this post has been attributed to Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and quite a few others. Some have even traced it back to the Bible: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,and discerning if they hold their tongues” (Proverbs 17:28, NIV).

It remains to be seen if Rep. Akin will stay in the race, but if he does, he might want to give that verse some serious consideration.

And if he can’t do that, he might try buying a roll of duct tape with which to cover his mouth the next time he wants to wax eloquent on the subject of rape.

 


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