Amy Davidson: For the GOP Opponents of Congressman Akin

Amy Davidson, at The New Yorker, has seven good questions for the GOP leaders who think Akin should resign. Not answering these questions is a sign of wind testing, not principled thinking. I’ve clipped her questions, but you can read the full article at the link:

1. You’ve said that Congressman Akin’s remarks offended you. Can you explain, in your own words, what about them offended you? Was it just that he was wrong about how conception works, or do you see more problems in his statement?

2. Congressman Akin used the phrase “legitimate rape.” If you haven’t addressed that in question No. 1, can you do so now? Is it a phrase that you would use, or countenance, or one that you would object to? Also, Akin co-sponsored legislation changing a statutory reference to “rape” to “forcible rape.” Is that a bill you voted for, or would?

3. Do you support access to abortion for victims of rape? Have you ever voted on or introduced legislation, or signed a pledge, addressing that point?

4. How about emergency contraception, also known as the morning-after pill?

5. Congressman Akin is an educated man. Do you think this incident shows that there are shortcomings in sex education and scientific literacy in America? Would you support increased sex education? And could organizations like Planned Parenthood have a role to play there?

6. You and your colleagues have called on Akin to withdraw from the Senate race against Claire McCaskill. Why? Do you think that he is unfit to serve, or do you just think that he will lose?

7. Can you talk about what you’ve done in your political career to help victims of sexual violence?

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I listen to american family radio on my drive when I am feeling good and don’t think it will depress me, and two days ago the host was arguing with all the callers since she was advocating Akin step down. Her logic was that his views were valid, but he has shown that he is not a very good spokesperson for the anti-abortion crowd and therefore should let someone else carry the torch. None of the callers seemed to be able to understand that logic.

  • EricW

    I hope she also asks Democrats why they’re having an accused rapist nominate their candidate for President at the upcoming convention, and ask him if “legitimate rape” depends upon what the meaning of the word “rape” is. :p

  • MatthewS

    I’m trying to comment but it’s being rejected as spam. Frustrating.

  • Jeremy

    Yeah, I’ve wondered if a lot of the calls to step down are political expediency more than anything else. I’m also wondering why the fact that Mitt’s endorsement of post-rape abortion hasn’t made so much as a single ripple…

    Irrelevant, EricW. Tu quoque and “innocent until proven guilty” and all that.

  • Kyle J

    Matthew, it may be an issue with post two links in one comment? Those get held automatically.

    On the topic of links, this one sums up the larger issue in the GOP ranks, IMO:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-21/todd-akin-and-the-right-s-false-fact-machine.html

    Climate change isn’t happening, or if it is, it’s a natural process not impacted by humans. Abortion causes breast cancer. The earth is fewer than 10,000 years old. The founding fathers “worked tirelessly” to end slavery. President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and his Hawaiian birth certificate is a forgery. America is currently experiencing high inflation. The gay rights movement is really an international pedophile conspiracy. Tax cuts raise revenue.

    The claim that rape can’t lead to pregnancy is just another of these false claims, periodically advanced in support of a conservative policy position. It’s not that all conservatives, or even most of them, believe any given “fact” on this list. But each view is firmly held by some fraction of the conservative movement, reinforced by publications and email forwards within the conservative bubble. And in every case, elite conservatives wink and nod at the views while disavowing them personally.

  • Tom F.

    I don’t think any sort of discussion on abortion is currently possible. There is simply no middle ground left. On the right, conservatives are now wondering if hormonal birth control may in fact cause abortions. On the left, everyone went after Susan G. Komen after they pulled funding. Rather than convincing those across the divide, both sides seem mainly to have convinced those in the middle to pick a side.

    Anti-abortion foes need to be careful here. Think back what happened with prohibition. What if Republicans actually do ban abortions even in cases of rape? You have thousands of assaulted women who now are going to pretty angry, especially those who aren’t Christians, and maybe even some who are. There stories could coalesce, and public perception could easily swing to where any attempts at regulating abortion are seen in a negative light by huge majorities of the population. That’s what happened in prohibition. I don’t think that would be a good outcome.

  • Rev. Scott

    In all the discussions surrounding this topic there is one point that rarely seems to be discussed:

    The murdered baby in the womb.

  • Tom F.

    Gee, Reverend, and here I thought that was ALL we could talk about.

    Sigh, I guess I couldn’t have asked for a better example of the inability to have any discussion.

    Can you at least acknowledge the possibility that reaching for EVERYTHING (no abortions ever) means that you could end up with NOTHING (political climate shifts because of inflexibility so that there is general unwillingness to support any restrictions on abortions)? Does that even bother you?

  • Matt Spaeth

    Any candidate that would replace Akin would pro life. Defeating Obama is the ultimate goal. Todd Akin just doesn’t understand that it’s not about him, it’s about America. Remember Obadiah 1:3 “Who can bring me down to the ground?” Think about that Mr. Akin!

  • Adam shields

    Discussions like this make me wonder why there was an effort by pro-life groups in 2008 to remove Democratic pro-life congressmen. Six were voted out. The issues is not really pro-life if pro-life advocacy groups were willing to vocally support the removal of democrats because they were democrats even when some of them were replaced by pro choice republicans

  • Amanda B.

    I am pro-life, but I do believe that Akin should step down. While I agree that rape is not good grounds for an abortion (as I do believe that a baby is killed in that instance, adding injustice to injustice), rhetoric like Akin’s is inexcusable. Even ignoring the scientific inaccuracy, his careless approach firstly implicitly blamed victims for getting pregnant, but then whatever pregnant women are *really* victims are too rare for him to be bothered about. Victimized women are traumatized enough without politicians making thick-skulled judgments about whether or not their assault was legitimate, or whether or not it matters in how the laws of our country work.

    Though I am still committedly pro-life, I find myself increasingly troubled by the rhetoric coming out of visible pro-life figures like Akin. We *must* be willing to engage with the reality of the pressures, difficulties, and hazards women face in our society. We must be among the biggest voices working towards the end of rape culture. We must never, ever victim-blame. We must labor for gender equality in our society, so that fewer and fewer women find themselves in the position of needing abortions in the first place. And we must be willing to put our money where our mouth is by actually supporting, helping, and caring for women who find themselves pregnant against their will.

    Yes, we need to defend the unborn. But we cannot be cavalier about the women whom we’re asking to make monumental sacrifices for the sake of those babies. No one gets an abortion for teh lulz. If we aren’t willing to hear these women’s stories, serve them every step of the way, and fight the injustices they face, we can’t lecture them as if we are more righteous than they.

  • MatthewS

    Great comment by Amanda, #11.

    It’s not just men and it’s not just pro-lifers. A lot of people are ignorant about the trauma of sexual abuse, including the more dramatic expressions of sexual violence. If there were a “teachable moment” here, perhaps it could have to do with understanding what this trauma is like in real life.

    My two pushbacks against the outrage at Akin (and I do not defend him, I think the comment was indefensible):
    1) When Whoopi made an indefensible comment about “rape-rape” the voices now outraged at Akin were then quiet. Selective outrage, this is.
    2) The pro-life position hinges on whether fetuses/unborn babies are human, not whether rape is horrible. It is logically consistent to stand against all abortions regardless of the circumstances of conception if one believes that a fetus is human.

  • MatthewS

    The rhetorical point that the pro-abortion camp keeps trying to score is that if you are against abortion in the case of rape, you are a knuckle-dragger who can’t comprehend what was wrong with Akin’s statement. An exception in the case of rape (and incest, and life of the mother, and…) does not make logical sense to those who believe they are defending the cause of vulnerable humans who cannot speak for themselves. This opinion is not occasioned by insensitivity to the trauma of any and all sexual abuse, it is a clear and consistent opinion that the life of the unborn has value and “do no harm” does not include aborting that life.

    My final point has a little bit of emotional heat: my brother has Downs Syndrome. It is my understanding that about half of the babies with Downs are being aborted, never to see the light of day. It’s like a eugenics triumph if you are into that sort of thing. My question back to someone like Davidson might be: Have you any concern for Downs and other handicapped babies who are being aborted? Can you talk about what you have done to address that tragedy?

  • MatthewS

    Strange: I was trying to post a comment (which was my third attempt) and it kept being reject as “too spammy.” I split the comment out into 12 and 13 above, and each of them posted.

  • Tom F.

    MatthewS: I understand the principled stand that “life begins at conception” folks have to take. What is clear, however, is that this is not the position that Akins took.

    By suggesting that women’s bodies have ways of “shutting this down” in cases of “legitimate” r*pe, it is worth asking what he precisely meant by this. Political “optics” aside, does Akin mean that an egg will not be fertilized, or does he mean that a fertilized egg will not be implanted? For example, fertilization can occur as quickly as 30 minutes after s*x. (http://health.howstuffworks.com/pregnancy-and-parenting/pregnancy/conception/how-long-after-s*x-does-conception-occur2.htm)

    This isn’t very long for a woman’s body to hormonally prevent conception (not that there is any evidence this happens anyway). So if a woman’s body “shuts this down” after this point, than a woman’s body is “aborting” a fertilized fetus, under the definition of most anti-abortion foes. So even if it were true that a woman’s body “shuts this down” some of the time, at least some of the time, this would mean that a natural abortion is taking place as a woman’s body prevents implantation. SO, Akin’s comment implies that it is “natural” for an abortion to take place in cases of rape. Pretty weird stuff.

    Furthermore, medical science is far enough along that it is likely that a hormonal therapy might be available to prevent a woman’s body from secreting the hormones that (supposedly) would prevent implantation. If life begins at conception, it seems clear that a “principled” abortion stance requires that medical science intervene and actually stop a woman’s body from trying to “shut this down”. So, a principled stance against abortion would seem to suggest that it is not acceptable that woman’s body might naturally abort a pregnancy, even if it was wired to do this naturally . (Of course, it isn’t.)

    If what Akin said was true, the logical outcome of this for “principled” pro-life people is that they would seek to force recently raped women to undergo hormonal therapy that would actively prevent their bodies from trying to stop fertilized eggs from implanting.

    And that’s why Akin is actually just crazy, and not really principled at all. His statement, when logically carried out, actually directly contradicts the principles that he supposedly stands for. It reveals his position as not rational, not scientific, and likely motivated by prejudice and misunderstanding. It does grave harm to any possibility of reaching more “common sense” abortion restrictions, like bans on partial-birth and parental notification (which I have reservations about, but I could be convinced about if it was done in the right way.) It’s very, very bad for our political discourse that he represents even a small minority of people.

    On a personal note, I feel for you and your brother, Matthew. You bring up a good point about disabilities and eugenics, and one that the left is not willing to talk about. I think that the disabilities thing is something that a lot of Americans would be much more receptive to talk about, and which could lead to some real, productive changes in our policy. But the rape situation is simply a non-starter at the political level. I don’t have any statistics on this, but rape pregnancies seem to me to be likely to be terminated extremely early. These very early abortions are likely only the ones that completely principled people are likely to oppose, and therefore, they are likely to be the hardest to get any political willpower towards changing.

    I say this not because I’m sold that the conservative position is the best, but because I think that if the progressive/liberal position simply “wins” this debate politically it could be nearly as awful, in part because of the eugenics sort of arguments that you raise (China, anyone?).

    By the way, thanks for talking about this in a calm, logical way that is open to the emotional aspects of this, but not overwhelmed by them.

  • MatthewS

    Tom F., I just wanted to say I appreciate your kind words


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