Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blowback for Akin: "Legitimate" Rape Comment Solidly Grounded in Religious Right Theology and Politics

Now that the cat's out of the bag, Rep. Todd "Death's-Head" Akin wants to maintain that he "used the wrong words in the wrong way" when he talked Sunday about "legitimate" rape and how the bodies of legitimately raped good girls have the propensity to "shut that whole thing down" when they're raped--and so avoid conception.  Unfortunately for Mr. Akin, however, lots of folks aren't buying his damage-control claims about having misspoken.  

In response, many good commentators are now pointing to the longstanding and easily documented religious roots of Akin's "wrong words" used "in the wrong way."  What Akin said about rape on Sunday is rooted in the ideology of the religious right (which now includes the leadership conference of American Catholic bishops, the USCCB), and which increasingly controls the Republican party at a national level.  And those concerned about what is happening to American democracy as the religious right asserts dominant control of one of our two major parties have every reason to be concerned about what Akin has just said--and about the agenda he's been promoting for some time now in the area of women's rights.

Excerpts from valuable commentary about this that I've read this morning:

Get your mind around that one.  A legitimate rape.  Won’t bother to ask how many classifications of rape this guy runs around with.  (Fellow-Republican Ryan uses the term forced rape – as opposed, maybe, to the nice kind.)  It would seem he’s trying to distinguish between unwanted assaults and cases in which women tell you they were raped when they actually weren’t.  Like how many of those have you experienced lately?


The man has a master’s degree in religion.  A Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.    He has an A-rating from the National Rifle Association.   He opposes stem cell research.  Last Thursday at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, he said he didn’t think the federal government should fund school lunches.  He’s against the morning after pill.

Why am I not surprised he’s a master of religion?

Akin’s comments reveal a religious culture fundamentally opposed to women’s equality. On the rape exception question in particular, he’s not forging new ground, but rather echoing tropes long in circulation. As Garance Franke-Ruta details at The Atlantic, deploying the bogus claim that a woman cannot get pregnant as a result of rape has long been a tactic of anti-choice activists to remove rape exceptions to laws outlawing abortion. And as Mother Jones’ Nick Baumann reports, last year Akin “and most of the House GOP co-sponsored a bill that would have narrowed the already-narrow exceptions to the laws banning federal funding for abortion—from all cases of rape to cases of ‘forcible rape.’” 
A 2001 PCA report on the prospect of women serving in combat positions in the military, titled “Man’s Duty to Protect Woman,” states, “woman is the weaker sex and part of her weakness is the vulnerability attendant to her greatest privilege—that God has made her the ‘Mother of all the living.’ Men are to guard and protect her as she carries in her womb, gives birth to, and nurses her children.” 
Yes, that was written in 2001, not 1001.

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.

That “female body” line is not only a frightening glimpse at the dangerous nonsense rattling around inside the heads of some on the far, far right. It is also—in its sheer befuddled clueless anatomical ignorance—an illustration of why we need more women in public office. When Akin says “ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” what exactly does he mean? What does he envision happening inside that mysterious, unknowable realm? Is it sorcery? Witchcraft? 
Akin, by the way, is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. I am not kidding.

His comments betray more than a remarkable unfamiliarity with the human reproductive system. They expose a widely held belief among many fierce abortion opponents that a rape exception will be abused by women whose rapes were not “legitimate.” This came up last year, for example, when the Indiana House was debating a stringent abortion restriction and Republicans objected to a rape exception. State Representative Eric Turner said the exception was a “giant loophole” that could be abused by a woman who falsely claimed she had been raped.

And in case Rep. Akin hasn't mansplained matters gynecotheological to your satisfaction, Jessica Valenti has a nifty quiz for you at The Nation . . . .  Also in a humorous vein: the graphic for this posting is by Randall Enos of Cagle Cartoons by way of Truthdig.

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