Todd Akin lacks a legitimate brain

In case you missed the headlines before the inevitable retraction, Todd Akin, a 6-term Republican Congressman who is hoping to defeat Senator Claire McCaskill, demonstrated his extreme anti-abortion stance and, simultaneously, his deep understanding of medicine and female biology with his comments on rape and pregnancy:

“It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors that’s really rare. . . . If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Shut the whole thing down?” Where did he get this crap? Doctors? Which doctors would support this idea? The same ones who would insist that women who are raped don’t suffer any ill effects? No injury, no trauma, no pregnancy? Oh, yeah, that’s right–that’s not the standard medical approach to rape.

There are any number of ways that Mr. Akin’ statement can be interpreted–none of them good.

The first interpretation is that there is any shred of legitimacy in the belief that women who get raped don’t get pregnant. That myth is widely debunked. Even before medical science confirmed this fact, experience proved it. Systematic rape of the women in conquered populations has been a staple practice for millenia, from the Romans to Bosnia and Sudan. It’s not just about humiliating the female victims, it’s about imprinting one’s bloodline on the defeated.

The second interpretation is that if a woman does get pregnant from what she calls “rape,” maybe it wasn’t really a “legitimate” rape after all. Maybe it was a “misunderstanding.” Maybe she wasn’t really raped, since women who are raped can’t get pregnant. Maybe she was asking for it. Maybe she said “no,” but really meant “yes.” In fact, that must be the case, otherwise she wouldn’t have gotten herself pregnant. Any takers for this argument? No, I didn’t think so.

The third interpretation is that Congressman Akin had no idea what he was talking about. He refers to his statement as “off-the-cuff remarks.” Really? He obviously had the presence of mind to falsely attribute his facts to unnamed “doctors.” He made the remarks during a pre-arranged interview for The Jaco Report, a weekly news program on the (wait for it) St. Louis Fox News affiliate. The interview was recorded several days before it aired and apparently Mr. Akin didn’t have any second thoughts about what he said in the meantime. He seems to have come to his senses been slapped upside the the head by a member of his staff sometime early Sunday morning shortly before his “clarification” hit the streets.

How high are the stakes for Mr. Akin? Charles Jaco put it this way in his intro:

“The race for the United States Senate in Missouri is one of the most closely watched in the nation. Republican hopes for regaining control of the Senate heavily depend on Republican Congressman Todd Akin defeating incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.”

So after defeating two opponents on August 7, a woman backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and a businessman who tried to buy the election with $7 million of his own money, Mr. Akin celebrated his victory by proclaiming,

“First, I want to give thanks to God our Creator who has blessed this campaign, heard your prayers, and answered them with victory. Through the months, we have seen frequent instances of His blessing and are reminded that with Him all things are possible.”

Primary day apparently brought out the values-voters. Not only was the Senate primary decided, Missouri voters also approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing citizens the right to express their religious beliefs by an 83% to 17% margin. It remains to be seen which Missourians will turn out to the polls in November, the ones who elected Senator McCaskill in 2006 or the ones who just gave students the right to refuse to do assignments on religious grounds.

This isn’t the first misstep for Mr. Akin. Question is: was it really a misstep or did he really believe his statement to be true? He wouldn’t be the only one to promote the idea. The GOP is stridently trying to deny charges of a “war on women.” Chalk up Mr. Akin remarks as a little “friendly fire” that will serve to continue to demonstrate that some conservatives just don’t get it. Making stupid or just ignorant remarks about half the population won’t help your cause. Especially when your opponent is one of that half.

The issue now is how seriously will Missourians take a situation that calls into question the intellect, thoughtfulness, and beliefs of one of their sitting elected representatives.

Well, Missouri, go ahead. Show us.

11 replies »

  1. Let me give you another interpretation, Cat. If, say, a twelve-year-old has a baby after claiming she’s been raped, it couldn’t have been real rape, because her mind/body must have wanted to have sex with that man/her father/whatever. So, there can be no such thing as statutory rape. The age of consent is determined by pregnancy. Yes?

  2. I think Akin just either lost the election or won it. Which it is depends on which part of my brain is winning the battle – my hope in the better nature of humanity, or my cynicism due to how often that hope has been betrayed.

  3. @ JSOBrien: I’ll take your comment at face value that, taken to its extreme, there can be no statutory rape laws if no pregnancy cannot occur, and, yes, that would be a horrendous problem.

  4. @ Brian: Given the high stakes, this cannot go without making an impact. Romney has been carefully tempering the R/R stance on abortion to stay away from Ryan’s more extreme positions. Then Akin has to go and put his foot in it and, by extension, start a conversation that the GOP was hoping to avoid (at lease outside of the base, where such extreme arguments are acceptable).

  5. I wasn’t thinking of the presidential election, just the Akin/McCaskill race. Given it’s high election season, I should have been more clear about that.

    I suspect this will have a small impact on the presidential election nationally (but may have a larger impact locally). The Romney/Ryan campaign has already “distanced” itself (lovely euphemism, that – vague disapproval without condemnation. Gack…) from Akin’s statement, and there are so many events between now and November 6 that it’ll likely be mostly overshadowed by those events.

  6. @ Brian: I should have been more clear: I meant “this cannot go without making an impact on the Senate race” (then I jumped to the presidential). Claire McCaskill is pretty bright and probably has a good team given what’s at stake. Jumping on this is NOT unfair piling on–it’s exposing the sort of thought process (or lack of thought process) that is the problem.

  7. Sam–yeah, Missouri goes, for sure. St Louis might be an ok place, but the rest of it is not that far removed from the rest of the south.

  8. @Cat: That’s a very interesting comment: “I’ll take your comment at face value.” Not sure what to make of it. Could what I wrote be interpreted in another way? If so, I apologize, truly, for not being clear. But perhaps you mean “face value” as “prima facie,” in which case your comment makes perfect sense. Regardless, just in case, I mean no offense, and your interpretation is exactly the way I meant it.


  9. @JSOBrien: Pre-sufficient coffee I was wondering if I understood you correctly or if I was being goaded into somehow agreeing with a bad idea. Caffeine helped clarify the issue. 🙂 You actually prompted some interesting discussions about other ways this idea could be misused: all non-procreative sex could be considered rape, for instance.