Beyerstein Chronicles the Conservative Crazy on Reproduction

The thoroughly badass Lindsay Beyerstein has a review of some of the more recent batshit crazy things said about women, sex and reproduction by religious right politicians, from masturbating fetuses to the female body being able to secrete its own birth control in case of rape. I didn’t know some of this about Todd Akin’s bizarre beliefs about rape:

The notion that rape never results in conception was used to unfairly discredit rape allegations for hundreds of years before science discredited the idea, but the modern anti-choice movement revived this dud in a disingenuous bid to convince the public that abortion bans don’t need rape exemptions. One paper in particular, contained in a 1972 volume funded by Americans United for Life, has been, uh, seminal in reviving the myth in anti-choice circles. The author’s evidence for this claim ranges from a pseudoscientific “experiment” from a Nazi concentration camp to his assertion that rapists masturbate too much to get their victims pregnant.

But this was not just some inadvertent misstatement by Akin, it’s a commonly held belief among the American Christian right. This is a perfect example of what I referred to as “virulent ignorance” in my C-SPAN talk in 2008. It isn’t just that they don’t understand the basic facts about reproduction, it’s that they have a large number of patently false ideas that they have absorbed and presume to be true and which they use to justify their policy positions.

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  • slc1

    Equally bizarre is the notion that life begins at conception. If that’s the case, then god is the world’s greatest abortionist as more then 50% of fertilized eggs fail to implant and are expelled.

  • It’s more than just “presume to be true.” They desperately want these things to be true. They want simple “facts” that let them avoid dealing with difficult and ambiguous moral questions. Uncertainty is scary and difficult and they avoid it at all costs — including the cost of making up comforting “facts.”

    “Life beings at conception” is comforting because it’s a definable moment. Once you get away from that moment the idea of life becomes harder to define. There’s a continuum between conception and birth and “life” begins somewhere along that. But because it’s not defined in a simplistic way, they don’t want to deal with it. As SLC1 points out, that definition has its own issues. But those are easily avoided with “God moves in mysterious ways.” Which is another simplistic explanation that lets them avoid thinking about difficult things.

  • mrlynne

    Got a link to the 2008 talk you mention?

  • stever

    A question that I’ve never seen asked of the “ensoulment at fertilization” crowd: Are souls divisible? Sometimes a zygote divides once before it starts differentiating, resulting in monozygotic twins. Which one gets the soul? Or does the soul divide? Or is there an emergency requisition for another soul? In parts of Kenya, they believe that only one soul can be conceived at a time, so when twins are born the local witch doctor is consulted to determine which baby has the soul and which is a demon. I’ve never heard an American forced-birther claim that one of every pair of identical twins must be killed, so where did that second soul come from?

  • dickspringer

    The “life begins at conception” argument from the pro-choice side doesn’t make sense to me although I am strongly ;pro-choice. A fertilized human ovum clearly is human and, if it is to become a baby, is alive. The question for me is “Do we have a moral obligation to a live human fetus before it has developed into a sentient being?” My answer is “no,” any more than I have a moral obligation to an essentially similar mouse or fish embryo.

    I think that we could be more persuasive if we framed our arguments more clearly and honestly.

  • Jesus wept, for the tiny people touched themselves in unnatural ways.

  • ArtK@2:

    There’s a continuum between conception and birth and “life” begins somewhere along that.

    Well, no, actually. To expand on dickspringer’s comment, life on Earth began some three billion years ago; and has continued, in an unbroken line, since then to every single ova and sperm that has ever been produced (speaking of Homo sapiens here). When humanity begins is a different question, and ought to be more determinative of when the state might have a legitimate interest in protecting the fetus.

  • Emu Sam

    Funniest filler particle disguised as speech disfluency I’ve seen in a while.

  • If rapists masturbate too much and fetuses are constantly jacking it, then obviously, we need to abort those evil little wankers before they become rapists.

  • naturalcynic

    Since fetuses are wankers, then we are all sinners. But if we are all sinners before we are born, the the fetus is not innocent and therefore can be aborted.

  • throwaway, extra beefy super queasy

    I think that we could be more persuasive if we framed our arguments more clearly and honestly.

    They’re not good with actual evidence. I mean, it’s pretty damn clear that a woman would suffer harm if she was forced to bear children against her will, not just for the pregnancy, but also the homebrew abortion that will be in the works if the forced-birthers have their way. What isn’t clear and what will forever be debated is what harm the fetus suffers. But again, what is clear, is that the alternative is two or more people will definitely suffer if the forced-birthers enforce pregnancy to term.

  • mucklededun

    Re twin ensoulment: there are many websites which go into

    eye-glazing detail about this from a theological perspective.

    Believe me, Christian apologists have had lots of time to

    ruminate on these topics. I admit that naturalcynic’s

    comment was a wrinkle I had not heard: if all humans are

    sinners, & if (human) life begins at conception, then it no

    longer works to claim that the unborn babies are innocent.

    But, of course, their ultimate answer is the one given by, IIRC,

    ‘St.’ Augustine, about the need for a Lake o’ FAAAAAHRRRR!

    –in which to throw people who ask such impious questions.