Rep. Todd Akin exposes the horrific immorality of moralism

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.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” said Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.

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”?

BooMan: “Todd Akin, Medical Doctor”

It’s like the victim and her interests and emotions don’t even exist.

Jesse Berney: “Missouri Senate Candidate Todd Akin’s Guide to Legitimate vs. Illegitimate Rape”

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.

Scott Lemiuex: “In Conclusion, We Must Remember to Respect the Superior Morality of the Anti-Choice Movement”

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.

Jodi Jacobson: “MO Senate Candidate Todd Akin Says Abortion Not Necessary Because Women’s Bodies Can ‘Shut Pregnancy Down’ After Rape

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.

David Badash: “US Congressman: Rape Victims’ Bodies ‘Shut Down’ Pregnancies Automatically, No Need for Abortion”

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.

Nicole Belle: “Todd Akin (R-MO) Says Rape Victims Can ‘Shut Down’ Pregnancies”

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.

  • PJ Evans

     No, don’t punch them in the face.
    Sign them up for a term at a  Planned parenthood, so they can see all the people they’re trying to condemn to poverty, and how many aren’t there for an abortion.

  • PJ Evans

     But he chose Ryan, the guy who’s against abortion in all cases.
    AnD Rmoney has been seen to change his mind in the course of a speech.
    So what he says is meaningless.

  • PJ Evans

     Try the classical period.

  • PJ Evans

    Every once in a while I wonder if this world actually is a speculative fiction dystopia.

    I don’t.  I’ve been pretty sure if it since the late 1990s.  But it’s a satirical dystopia, and a badly-written one.  Just look at the last decade, and tell me that if it had been a book, the editor wouldn’t have rejected it for being too ham-fisted.

    Personally, I’ve been working on the theory that this is Purgatory since I was 11.

    I keep wondering what day we slid into the Mirror Universe, where all the good guys should have goatees.

  • PJ Evans

     Why? He’s been leading in all of your favorite polls.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s what the Matrix would be if it were coded by Byron Hall.

  • AnonymousSam

    These are people who still believe today that a husband is physically incapable of raping his wife. If he beat her up until she couldn’t fight it, the blame falls on her for not performing her duties to him as his wife. Domestic abuse, you say? Better not look into New Hampshire’s Bill 1581. Preempting it with “in the Year of Our Lord” is just the icing on the cake on that particular piece of legal WHAT THE FUCK.

    It’s all about the misogyny — degrees of it which go beyond shameful into the territory of begging to be put out of our collective misery.

  • Lori

     YOU READ TLO TOO???

    Sorry about that. I get a little excited when parts of my internet cross paths. 

    The streams have indeed crossed, because I read them every day. (My love for them is pretty much boundless. No matter how crappy things are they can be counted to make me laugh. Some days that’s really important. )

  • aunursa

    But he chose Ryan, the guy who’s against abortion in all cases.

    I’m not clear what your point is.  The presidential candidate doesn’t select a running mate on the basis that they agree on every single issue.  And someone above pointed out that an abortion opponent who opposes the procedure in cases of rape is at least offering a consistent position.  Akin has singlehandedly destroyed his political career — not because of his position on abortion — but because of his incendiary and nonsensical statement about the reaction of female body to “legitimate rape.” (Apparently he was channeling his inner Whoopi Goldberg.)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    These are people who still believe today that a husband is physically incapable of raping his wife. If he beat her up until she couldn’t fight it, the blame falls on her for not performing her duties to him as his wife.

    I dunno’, I kind of feel like in that context other people should have full justification in beating this guy up for failing to respect a woman.  

    If one’s foe respects force, then you should respect the shit out of him.  

    Gah, sorry.  Misogynists are something of a berserk button for me, to the point that the thought of a measure of violence against them produces a pleasurable reaction in me.  Damn addictive indignation… 

  • PJ Evans

    I suddenly got this mental picture of the GOP members who are condemning Akin as fellow con-men yelling at him for blowing their game before they can get the maximum payoff.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Ah, so what they are doing is looking for loopholes to avoid compensating crime victims?

    It feels like behind every moral crusade is callus greed. 

    FearlessSon:

    You’re not wrong, I don’t think.

    Even the modern pedophile-under-every-rock war that’s going on right now has an element of hard financial calculation under it: police and prosecutors and politicians all can get extra money by pushing for laws and measures that don’t really accomplish much except to help redirect spending away from social services measures that might legitimately treat and cure them, to law and order measures that have the effect of swelling the prison population and the pocketbooks of people who run feel-good run-em-outta-town campaigns.

  • Lori

     

    If Akin remains in, the NRSC will spend nothing on the Missouri Senate race.   

    If nothing else, Akin is exposing exactly where the cracks in the GOP lie.

  • PJ Evans

     These guys apparently did. Or at least it sure looks like Romney picked Ryan because of his straight-down-the Teaparty-line views.

  • PJ Evans

    redirect spending away from social services measures that might legitimately treat and cure them, to law and order measures

    Private prisons are part of this. Someone (or several) makes a profit off people being sent to prison. Which results in more incentive to keep on that road.

  • Lori

    I suddenly got this mental picture of the GOP members who are condemning Akin as fellow con-men yelling at him for blowing their game before they can get the maximum payoff.  

    I think that’s true for some of them. For others I think the response is more along the lines of , “I can’t believe you said that in such a blatant way. We made a deal with you troglodytes—-you vote for us to get really, seriously, obscenely rich and we back your play on culture war dog whistles. Dog whistles, you moron. You’re supposed to speak in code. If you put it right out there we have no “plausible” deniability, and that hurts our changes of remaining in a position to get even more filthy stinking rich.”

    I mean Akin is so ham-handed that he even worked 9/11 into one of his “explanations”. You can’t waste the GOP’s go-to reference that way.

    http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/08/20/13380304-akin-clinging-to-his-senate-bid

  • Lori

    McCaskill made it clear during the GOP primary that she preferred to run against Akin. I’m not sure if reminding people of that is good, bad or indifferent, but she certainly isn’t providing any new information by making it clear he’s her preferred opponent.

  • Madhabmatics

    I don’t read TLO but I totally have listened to the TLO roll call!

    “Mr. Casual Khakis, sweaters from moms
    got a rap attack that blasts cats better than bombs
    into history and learning, not sports and crap
    check my basement I’m working on a torture rack”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I really see Akin’s stance on abortion as informing his comments about rape. It’s not a direct one-to-one correlation, but I can definitely see someone who wants to defend a stance on abortion that is tougher than even many pro-life people would go needing some way to dismiss the “rape and incest” clause that a lot of people are hung up on. If he can downplay rape /  as being something that’s fairly rare and usually not that big of a deal for the victim long-term, it would make it easier for him to justify (to himself and to others) why an abortion ban is justified. The just world fallacy might play into it too; I don’t think that Akin likes the thought of a female friend or relative being victimized in that way, so he might tell himself these little stories to make the threat seem more remote.

    (It’s kind of like how someone who is a racist or an anti-Semite often try to portray their hated racial/religious minorities as being either dangerous or parasitic in some way (the old myth of the predatory Jewish moneylender appears here a lot); this makes it easier for the bigot to justify hurting them whenever he can because he can say, “Hey, I’m not saying they’re all like that, but come on, we all know that it’s a pretty big issue!”)

    I do agree that if Akin had merely thought what he said and acted on those thoughts (to the extreme detriment of the women of his country, that is), he would probably have not been removed from the ballot. I’m not sure what it says about us that doing awful things is laudable and will get you elected, but merely describing them is OK. That’s

  • Morilore
  • Madhabmatics

     this is how I get my onion related news:

    http://literallyunbelievable.org/

  • JenL

    Ah, so what they are doing is looking for loopholes to avoid compensating crime victims?  

    It’s not even about compensation.  They try to sound reasonable by saying that they accept that abortion might be appropriate in certain circumstances, like when the mother’s health is in danger or when the pregnancy occurred through rape or incest. 

    Then they try to limit it so that “rape” means there’s actual evidence of resistance on her part – and some politicians have literally gotten up and expressed concern that women will claim to have been raped in order to get an abortion of convenience.

    And then they quibble about what it means that the mother’s health is in danger.  Some of them worry that if a woman can have an abortion for the sake of her mental health, any woman who decides she no longer wants to be pregnant can get an abortion.

    They apparently think any woman is liable to decide at the drop of a hat that she’d prefer an abortion, and that we’re all willing to lie to meet the requirements to get that abortion, so they have to protect all those pregnancies from those horrible, horrible women….

  • http://twitter.com/centauri Elisabeth

    Is it just me or does this sound like the pro-life just found yet another argument to blame rape-victims, wrapped in “rape-victim friendly language”? ‘If you don’t get pregnant after a rape, it was a legitimate rape, therefore you really are a victim and deserve our pity. If you do get pregnant, it wasn’t a legitimate one, therefore you must have somehow wanted/asked for it, and you’re on your own, you slut!’

  • Tonio

    That doesn’t go deep enough, because both Akin’s absolutism and the rape/incest exceptions amount to forcing women to carry pregnancies to term. You’re exactly right that downplaying rape allows Akin to justify to himself a total ban. Slate magazine suggested a while back that the exceptions accomplish something very similar. As the theory went, advocates of abortion bans are bothered by that forcing, so the exceptions allow them to believe that they’re only punishing women who “deserve” it – meaning those who wanted to have sex without becoming mothers. 

  • banancat

    Please remember that a woman isn’t automatically a mother when she is pregnant. The better term is “pregnant woman’s health”.

  • aunursa

    These guys apparently did.

    I regret that I am even less clear of your point.  It’s helpful if you quote the specific portion of my comment to which you are responding.

    Romney picked Ryan because of his straight-down-the Teaparty-line views.

    Interesting.  The consensus seems to be that if Romney were perceived to be leading in the race, he would have selected a “safer”, “blander” pick like Pawlenty or Portman.

  • aunursa

    I really see Akin’s stance on abortion as informing his comments about rape.

    Do you believe that others who oppose abortion in all instances secretly believe the same thing about rape but are just smart enough not to say it?  Otherwise, I don’t understand how Akin’s stance informs his comments.  Akin is a moron, but I wouldn’t apply his idiotic view of rape and pregnancy to all opponents of abortion who wouldn’t allow an exception for rape.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    (content: rape)

    Can’t speak for Charity, of course, but for my part… if I have a stance on abortion that leads me to encourage (or require) pregnant rape victims to carry the resulting fetus to term, and I understand that rape is an extreme form of violent assault and that many victims of such assault would find carrying the resulting fetus to term traumatic, and I have enough empathy to not want to traumatize those people, I’m in a bit of a psychological bind.

    One way to get out of that bind without changing any of the above is to believe that the situation never arises… that extreme forms of violent assault don’t lead to pregnancy.

    So it doesn’t seem implausible to me that the former might inform the latter when both are present.

    I do agree with you, though, that just because someone requires pregnant rape victims to carry the resulting fetus to term, it doesn’t follow that they must also believe that rape can’t cause pregnancy. (For example, a simpler way out of that bind is to decide that traumatizing those people matters less than other relevant values I hold.)

  • Tonio

    others who oppose abortion in all instances

    That wording is deceptive because many people who believe that abortion is wrong also believe that it should remain legal. Akin typifies the questionable morality of favoring laws that would ban abortion, which really mean laws that force women to carry pregnancies to term. It cannot be emphasized enough that the question of whether a woman should carry a pregnancy to term or have an abortion is not the same as whether someone else should force either one of those on her. 

    Akin’s mentality is merely the flip side to that behind exceptions for rape and incest. These allow opponents of legal abortion to deceive themselves that they’re not really punishing women. They’re just punishing women who allegedly deserve it by wanted to have sex without becoming mothers. Akin is doing the same thing by claiming that women don’t get pregnant from rape or at least “forcible” rape. He’s downgrading the definition of non-consensual sex to justify forcing more women to carry to term. Both mentalities wrongly frame the issue as about consent, and that’s really about shaming women who don’t desire motherhood, as if that was a moral crime.

  • Lori

    So, Akin is staying in. May his determination to fight on bring us more GOP in-fighting and more Right wing groups defending him by saying out loud the incredibly offensive things they’ve always believed but usually only admit to each other.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Also? Romney picking the author of the “Ryan budgets” is telling about his real priorities.

    Republicans balked at the thought of having to cut military spending and have been twisting themselves into pretzel knots to avoid having to cut a dime of it (contrary to their stated intentions of teeth-gritting we-must-do-this when Obama and Biden tried crafting their bipartisan spending cuts across the board measures in response to Republican brinkmanship over the debt ceiling); Paul Ryan’s proposed budgets have the effect of massively slashing spending elsewhere in order to protect the sacred cow of having the biggest dick to wave around the world.

  • Tonio

    I would be pleased by his staying in the race if I knew that it would bring on his positions the shame that they so rightly deserve. This is the same state that produced John Ashcroft and the right-to-pray law, so it’s very likely that he would get enough votes from his fellow reactionaries to win.

  • hagsrus

    “Missouri voters strongly disagree with the comments Todd Akin made about
    abortion over the weekend, but it hasn’t moved the numbers a whole lot
    in the Senate race. Akin leads Claire McCaskill by a single point,
    44-43. That’s basically identical to our last poll of the contest in
    late May, which found Akin ahead by a 45-44 spread.”

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/08/akin-44-mccaskill-43.html

  • Lori

    I saw that too. There are some potential issues with that poll, most of which PPP readily acknowledges, so I’m trying not to make assumptions about the respondents. It will be interesting to see how things play out both in future polls and in the election.

    One thing is for sure, if Akin gets elected I don’t want to hear one word about how nice and decent Missouri Republican voters are and how mean it is to make assumptions about them and blah, blah, blah. Akin put it right out there. If folks still vote for him, regardless of the excuses they make for it, they’re complicit.

  • JenL

    Please remember that a woman isn’t automatically a mother when she is pregnant. The better term is “pregnant woman’s health”.

    You’re right, of course.  I was thinking in terms of what I’ve heard said, not about the accuracy of the term.

  • aunursa

    Claire McCaskill won her 2006 election by a 2% margin.  And Missouri is about the purplest state in the union; in 2008 McCain received 49.4% of the vote, and Obama 49.3%.  Given the gift of Akin, a McCaskill defeat to this idiot would demonstrate a greater political impotence than Martha Coakley – something that I don’t believe is possible.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    They’re looking for loopholes so they can continue to be rapists and teach their sons to be rapists.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

     Following your link, I found this one, which pulls absolutely no punches:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/pregnant-woman-relieved-to-learn-her-rape-was-ille,29258/

    TRIGGER WARNINGS LIKE WOAH, Y’ALL: brief and fictional but *graphic* description of forcible rape.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     That’s true. I was more challenging the notion that Akin’s “rape” comment was completely distinct from his views about abortion. I don’t think that a pro-choice person would have felt the need to come up with that kind of logical contortion and willful ignorance; not because pro-choice people are inherently smarter/better/superior to pro-life people, but because the pro-choice belief doesn’t require them.

    Do you believe that others who oppose abortion in all instances
    secretly believe the same thing about rape but are just smart enough not
    to say it?  Otherwise, I don’t understand how Akin’s stance informs his
    comments.  Akin is a moron, but I wouldn’t apply his idiotic view of
    rape and pregnancy to all opponents of abortion who wouldn’t allow an
    exception for rape.

    No, I don’t. However, in order to believe that abortion should be legally prohibited in all instances, you almost have to “delegitimize” rape and incest to at least some extent, right? Well, there is one other option — you can just be completely indifferent to the physical and emotional wellbeing of females in general, to the point where you can hear a story about a 5-year old girl raped and impregnated by her grandfather and not understand why her giving birth is not desirable.

    I have a hard time getting into that mindset, because to me, it’s basically evil. I don’t expect them to lift a finger to help, but they seem intent on heaping more burdens down on people, essentially victimizing them a second time. The only way that I can rationalize this is to essentially say that Akin himself may be a decent person but he has a horrific ideology that demands constant sacrifices of logic, common sense, and, eventually, decency itself in order to sustain itself. I might be wrong, but I’ve never really encountered a better explanation for this specific kind of pro-life person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     That would be true, but, you know, voters have to take responsibility for their choices. If you send someone to Congress, you’re basically saying that this person more or less represents your views.


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