Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Legitimate rape

"There are no words for this -- it is just nuts." — Dr. Michael Greene, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, Harvard Medical School

UNLESS YOU WERE a stowaway on the Mars rover, and you've actually taken up residence there, you know that sitting Missouri Congressman, Todd Akin, who is running against Senator Claire McCaskill for the Senate seat she holds, has been making up his own version of how human reproduction works. 

Oh yes, and coining new terms: legitimate rape.

It might be funny if it weren't so cruel and dangerous. He believes that if a woman is 'really' raped, her body has some magical way of avoiding pregnancy. He said, "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

In case you haven't seen it, here's the interview.

I'm wondering if he were raped, since he wouldn't become pregnant as a result, would that be proof that his rape was not "legitimate"? Just asking.

And Akin's 'apology'? Come on! Paul said, "He didn't misspeak. He misthinks!"

Akin has repeatedly let us know what he thinks of women. Here's a post that appeared today on Slate:

The Rape Skeptic
By William Saletan|Posted Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012
Todd Akin wants to be forgiven. Two days after his catastrophic interview on KTVI-TV in St. Louis—in which he claimed that pregnancy from rape was “really rare” because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”—Akin has issued a video apology.

 “I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologize,” he tells the camera. “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold.”

Really? Was Akin’s gaffe just a poor choice of words? Or does it reflect a deeper problem?

Akin’s track record on this issue goes back to 1991, when he was a state legislator in Missouri. At the time, Missouri was one of four states in which husbands, by definition, couldn’t be prosecuted for raping their wives. A bill came to the floor of the Missouri House that would abolish this exemption, making spousal rape a crime. Akin joined 118 of 134 state representatives in voting for the bill. But during the debate, according to a contemporaneous report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (flagged two week ago by Sahil Kapur in Talking Points Memo), Akin warned that a law against marital rape might be abused ''in a real messy divorce as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband.''

Akin was elected to Congress in 2000. A decade later, in January 2011, he co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which, among other things, would have tightened the definition of rape in U.S. abortion law. At the time, federal laws against abortion funding exempted pregnancies caused by rape. The “No Taxpayer” bill altered this formulation, exempting only “forcible” rapes. The change of language (first reported by Nick Baumann in Mother Jones) was widely condemned for excluding statutory rape and for supposedly implying that date rape wasn’t really rape. Eventually, the bill’s sponsor removed the word “forcible.”

Nothing in the record suggests Akin had anything to do with the rape language, which was peripheral to the bill. But yesterday on Mike Huckabee’s radio show, Akin pleaded that when he referred in the KTVI interview to “legitimate” rape, “I was talking about forcible rape.” So he affirms the distinction drawn in the 2011 bill.

When you look at the three episodes side by side—the 1991 comment about marital rape, the 2011 specification of “forcible rape,” the 2012 reference to “legitimate rape”—it’s hard to explain away the pattern. Nobody uses the wrong words accidentally three times in a row. . .

A man who talks repeatedly about “legitimate” rape, “forcible” rape, and spousal rape laws as a “legal weapon to beat up on the husband” isn’t worrying that that too many rapes go unreported. He’s worrying that rape is defined too broadly and asserted too often.

That’s why Akin’s apology doesn’t cut it. He didn’t just “misspeak” in a thoughtless moment. He exposed a longstanding streak of suspicion, aimed not at accused rapists but at rape accusers. Todd Akin is a rape skeptic. If he won’t face that fact, the voters of Missouri will face it for him.

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