Mitt Romney cannot run away from the vicious anti-woman faction of his party, as he learned when Todd Akin refused to bow to the demands of Romney and other leaders to leave the U.S. Senate race.
Akin is the Republican candidate who provoked outrage when he said that a woman who was the victim of a “legitimate rape” could prevent pregnancy through force of will. He was explaining why he (like many leading Republicans, including Paul Ryan) wants to bar rape victims from the right to an abortion.
Akin’s comments are bizarre at many levels. He purports to knowledge of the female body that would surprise many women. If rape victims were able to repel pregnancy by muscle control or other mind-body techniques, we surely would have heard about it by now. Women would have shared this advice through the generations because rape has been a plague through the generations. Rape victims in Bosnia or in African war zones would have made good use of the Akin technique. Women in this country, who have made great strides in learning about their bodies/their selves, would love to have happened on a magical technique for preventing unwanted pregnancy. It would make contraceptives unnecessary.
So ignorance about women is one charge against Akin. A more serious charge is hostility toward women, which is suggested by his use of the term “legitimate rape.”
Akin later sought to amend his statement, saying he meant to say “forcible rape.” He was guilty only of the wrong choice of words, he said — not to mention an unfortunate redundancy.
It’s safe to say that Akin did not mean to suggest that some rapes are legitimate. What he meant to say, apparently, was that some claims of rape are legitimate and some are not. He maintains that allowing abortion for actual rape victims would open the door to false claims of rape by women seeking an abortion. Thus, we would be flooded by illegitimate claims of rape.
So it comes down to this: Akin would condemn rape victims to carrying the children of their rapists in order to rebuff legions of lying women who would take advantage of the law by falsely claiming rape.
This position is insulting to women at many levels. By proposing to ban abortions in the first place, Akin would involve himself and the government in the intimate decisions of a woman’s life. That is objectionable, but many people in America oppose abortion on religious and moral grounds so it is not surprising.
On another level Akin’s view is more deeply insulting: It is based on a dark and hostile view of women as sexual libertines who would lie and break the law to gratify their desires and sacrifice their unborn children to get their way. It is a view that lacks all sympathy with or understanding of the actual lives of women and the difficult choices they must face. Further, it confronts the most vulnerable women of all — pregnant rape victims — with an absolute lack of empathy or understanding.
This is the view of Paul Ryan, candidate for vice president. Sorry, Mitt, you can’t run away from the bargain you have made with the extremist fringe of the Republican Party. Cast a glance at the Republican Party platform taking shape for the party convention in Tampa, Fla. It is a platform that is pledged to making war against the independence and freedom of women. It would thrust women back into a position of vulnerability and subservience.
Todd Akin has done us the service of making these GOP realities evident to all. In so doing, he has cast into doubt the possibility that the Republicans might take over the U.S. Senate. Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom Akin is challenging, is all the more likely to survive. Throughout the country, voters may now awaken to the extremist complexion of the Republican Party, and Republicans may learn that the fringe belongs at the fringe where it can do less harm to the lives of real people.
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