Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and The Rapist

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In June, I wrote the following in a longer piece over at TheReligiousLeft.org:

“The GOP war on women is entirely about protecting male power.  Specifically, the power of white Christian men to create and control life as well as prevent women from exercising power.  

Protecting male power to create and control life (ala the classic Monty Python song “every sperm is sacred!”) is most egregiously illustrated by the fact that criminalizing abortion and making contraception inaccessible and illegal protects the power of even a male rapist to determine that life begins.  Without safe and legal contraceptive options and morning-after back-up, without access to safe and legal abortion, life begins when any man and his seed says it does.  Even the rapist.

We need to name those waging this war, those whose power is in fact being protected:  the male politician, the male husband, the male sperm-producer, the male rapist, the male god.”

The name Todd Akin, Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, just shot to the top of that list, with his comments in an interview posted on Sunday:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

I have no idea what kind of magical powers Mr. Akin thinks the female body has.  It seems from this comment that he has no idea how the female body works.  I wonder if he understands that a female body is often part of that which we call “a woman.

Note that he mentions “the rapist,” “the child,” and “the female body.”  Not “the woman” …  “the female body.”  That pesky thing that gets in the way of protecting zygotes.  It’s like objectification to an extreme.  It isn’t a woman.  It doesn’t even sound like a human being.  The zygote has been elevated to the status of “child” but a woman has been reduced to “the female body.”

And though the Romney-Ryan campaign has disavowed Akin’s comments today, they reflect too well the worldview of the Grand Old Party we have seen emerging in recent years.  Paul Ryan was a cosponsor of HR 212, the Sanctity of Human Life Act.  This was a “personhood” bill protecting a zygote at the expense of a woman in whom it resides.  As Kevin Drum at Mother Jones described:

“In fact, if this bill were passed and the Supreme Court upheld it, I’ll bet that a rapist could go to court and sue to prevent his victim from getting an abortion. He’d argue that the fetus was legally a human being, and the court has no power to discriminate between one human being and another. He’d probably win, too.”

Whose life is being protected by this party, anyway?  It gets clearer every day.

Now, go read Chloe’s “thank you note” to Mr. Akin over at Feministing.com.  Here’s a little sample:

“I want to thank him for demonstrating that the anti-choice movement is so often divorced from scientific facts, like when they claim that the uterus contains a magical anti-rapist semen force field, or when they claim that there’s a causal relationship between abortion and breast cancer. It is not, in fact, “really rare” for rape to result in pregnancy, unless you think that something that happens 32, 000 times every year is “really rare.”

 

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About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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