This post is about a tea-party Republican politician’s understanding of sex, morality and rape. So consider that a trigger warning for anyone who views the first two as Good Things and the last one as a horrific crime (this guy disagrees on all three counts).
Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo seems to have had this story first, “Republican Senate Nominee: Victims of ‘Legitimate Rape’ Don’t Get Pregnant“:
Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
This is an astonishing thing for a politician to say, in public, on the record. But it is not at all surprising that a fiercely anti-abortion politician would believe it.
This is simply what happens when moralism replaces morality.
The two things are incompatible. In order to choose moralism — which is what allegiance to the anti-abortion movement requires Akin to choose — he had to abandon morality.
And, as his comments about “legitimate rape” demonstrate, Todd Akin has abandoned morality.
Here’s how this works: Moralism seeks to blame all suffering on moral failure. If you are suffering, then you must have done something to deserve such suffering.
Victims, therefore, always must share in the blame. And since their suffering is deserved, nothing can or should be done to address it.
This is not a new idea. “Think now,” said Eliphaz the fool, “who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” And just as foolishly, the disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
That’s how moralism works. It’s simple, tidy and, ultimately, monstrous.
And it requires ignorance. It creates, fosters and compels ignorance.
Akin’s moralism demands that he remain as ignorant as he can about how sex works and about what rape means. Akin cannot allow himself to learn anything about such things.
As Raw Story’s Jonathan Terbush notes, Akin’s moralistic crusade against abortion includes his support for a complete ban on emergency contraception.
Why? Because Akin doesn’t understand how sex works. And if you don’t understand how sex works, you’re liable to believe the lie that emergency contraception is an “abortifacient.”
You’re not just more likely to believe this lie, but you’re likely to want to believe it. And that means you’re less likely to bother checking to see if it’s actually true or to listen when scientists, doctors or people who passed their middle-school health class explain that it’s not.
Examining such a lie threatens Akin’s pose of moralism, so he cannot afford to examine it. He thus remains ignorant — so mind-bogglingly, ridiculously ignorant that he apparently believes in some ludicrous notion of magical anti-rape powers that keep virtuous women’s reproductive systems virtuous.
Rep. Todd Akin is a moralist. He preaches, and practices, moralism.
That is not the same thing as morality. That is not compatible with morality.
And it is not compatible with doing, or being, good.
Below the jump are various reactions and comments responding to the repugnant anti-morality moralism of Republican Todd Akin, Republican member of the House of Representatives and Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. (He’s a Republican.)
Irin Carmon: “Todd Akin: ‘Legitimate rape’ stops pregnancy”
Michael Kinsley famously defined a gaffe as “when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” This election season, Republican politicians have offered a variation on this principle: They’re getting in trouble for saying some obvious truth about what they actually believe about women, baring the ignorance, contempt and cruelty therein instead of pretending this is about protecting women or babies.
Akin happens to have exemplified all three, with a special emphasis on ignorance, when he was asked, “So just to be clear, though, you would like to ban the morning-after, totally for everyone?” Akin replied, “I think that’s a form of abortion, and I don’t support it.” Akin is free to “think” anything he wants, but he’s wrong on the science — just as he was with his ideas about “legitimate rape,” with one study estimating over 32,000 pregnancies from rape in a given year. Does Akin think those pregnancies — predominantly in adolescents who had been assaulted by a “known, often related perpetrator” — didn’t involve “legitimate rapes”?
It’s like the victim and her interests and emotions don’t even exist.
Missouri Congressman and GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin is a brilliant scientist (with a B.S. in something called “Management Engineering”) and is therefore highly qualified to speak on the intricacies of female anatomy, especially when it comes to the heretofore unknown magic powers of the reproductive system. Did you know, for example, that the uterus is able to determine the difference between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” rape? I bet you didn’t even know there was a difference, unlike Todd Akin, who currently serves on the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee thanks to his expertise. In science.
I assume this is unnecessary for our readership, but in fact “[r]ape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence.”
Lindsay Beyerstein: “GOP Senate Nominee: Victims of ‘Legitimate Rape’ Don’t Get Pregnant”
It all comes down to traditional values. If you throw a suspected witch in the river and she doesn’t drown, she was a legitimate witch. If she drowns, she wasn’t legit after all. Oh, well.
Mr. Akin’s biography says he has a degree in Management Engineering, and is a “student of the Constitution.” Clearly, he is not a student of medicine, gynecology, biology, nor, I’d venture to say, common sense and common decency. And I am not sure I trust him on the Constitution either.
So, let’s be clear here. If Congressman Akin becomes Senator Akin, he will be voting on Supreme Court nominees — not to mention many nominations of federal judges.
Imani Gandy: “The Root of Todd Akin’s Pregnancy-Rape Theory”
From the (Philadelphia) Daily News archives; originally published in 1988:
The odds that a woman who is raped will get pregnant are “one in millions and millions and millions,” said state Rep. Stephen Freind, R-Delaware County, the Legislature’s leading abortion foe.
The reason, Freind said, is that the traumatic experience of rape causes a woman to “secrete a certain secretion” that tends to kill sperm.
Two Philadelphia doctors specializing in human reproduction characterized Freind’s contention as scientifically baseless.
I really am beginning to feel strongly that men who have not a single clue on the reproductive system of women have absolutely no right to opine on it, much less legislate.