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Buffoon of the Week: I Nominate Todd Akin

When the Republican Congressman said victims of ‘legitimate rape’ don’t get pregnant, he did more than make a political gaffe—he earned the title of Ignorant Misogynist.

Just when you think congressional reputation couldn’t get any lower, along comes Republican Congressman Todd Akin. This legislative ‘genius’—who has been sent to Washington six times by a segment of the electorate from Missouri, and is now running for Senator in that state—made the following statement during an interview with a local FOX television news station:

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

Where do we even begin?!

At the bare minimum, I’m sure I don’t have to explain that, No, the female reproductive anatomy can’t distinguish between forced or consensual intercourse when it comes to conception. Just think how much easier it would be if women who didn’t want to get pregnant could just ‘will’ their bodies to make it go away. Perhaps we should be a wee bit concerned that Rep. Akin sits on the House Science Committee.

In real life, rape actually does result in unwanted pregnancy with “significant frequency.” It’s estimated that more than 32,000 rape-related pregnancies occur each year (which is likely a low estimate, given that rape is often underreported). That was the conclusion from actual scientists and doctors, according to study findings they published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: 

“Rape-related pregnancy is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence.”

Which leads us to the most reprehensible part of Akin’s statement: using the word legitimate to describe rape. Is he suggesting that some rapes are not legitimate, that the woman somehow really wanted or invited the sexual assault to happen? Perhaps Akin believes there are situations where a woman doesn’t really have the right to say “No.” Is rape only ‘legitimate’ when the victim doesn’t know her attacker? Maybe, for Akin, ‘No Means No,’ except when it doesn’t.

Sure, this is a guy who’s got the best intentions for women’s health. Riiiiight.

Of course, Akin just continued on with the theme of marginalizing the woman whose body has already been abused and assaulted without her consent. In the same interview, he said that even if those ‘natural’ anatomical defenses against unwanted pregnancy somehow fail, abortion should not be a legal option for the rape victim.

“But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

The woman—the actual victim—doesn’t even figure into the equation, according to this champion of how women’s bodies should be regarded. Perhaps Akin believes she should get punished too.

Even though Akin later tried to backtrack somewhat by saying he ‘misspoke,’ it was too late to get that pig back in the barn.

But with the hot glare of media spotlight suddenly shining on the Congressman, it became even clearer that the pig has been out of the barn and rolling in the mud of misogyny for a while.

Early in his political career, Akin questioned an anti-marital-law in Missouri, concerned it might be used by women to "beat up on husbands" in messy divorces. Akin was also a co-sponsor on a 2011 bill in Congress that restricted federal funds for abortions to victims of ‘forcible’ rape, a bill often referred to as the “let Women Die” bill. Seems we’re back to the era of blame the victim:  She was asking for it! It’s her fault, look at how she was dressed! Husbands don’t rape their wives—they’re supposed to have sex. Limited mental ability? 19-year-old victim of incest? Sorry, you’re out of luck.

I like the suggestion made by one writer, that public officials who draft legislation on women’s health be required to first take—and pass—a course in female biology. Perhaps they should also be required to have a vagina.

Of course I know that that last suggestion isn’t the way our government works. Legislators quite frequently have to consider laws about segments of the population from which they differ. However, as a woman, it’s infuriating to think that members of our government want to legislate my control over what happens to my body. Forced vaginal ultrasounds, pregnancy prevention, women’s health coverage—these are all reasonable topics up for discussion and limitation, according to some up on Capitol Hill.

Akin may have stepped waaaaay over the line with this latest ‘mis-speaking’—thankfully, he’s been slammed by people on all sides of the political spectrum, including even the Romney-Ryan team. Campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul released a statement on Sunday:  “Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” (What’s interesting is that this differs from past positions that Ryan has previously taken with regard to abortion, birth control and women’s health, even in cases of rape or incest. He even co-sponsored that “forcible rape” law with Akin last year.)

Akin is not alone with his beliefs, and errors like this have the GOP worried their hopes of reclaiming the Senate are getting slimmer. One can only hope that at least the seat Akin is vying for will stay handily in possession of the current occupant, a Democratic Senator—who just happens to be a woman.

So Missouri, you’re the “Show Me State.” On behalf of all women, I’d like to ask you to show Rep. Akin, Patch In’s “Buffoon of the Week” one more thing—the door. 

LPL August 22, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I also feel he meant the reverse: IF a woman got pregnant, since (he thinks) she can't if she's raped, then she must have consented (so throw her to the curb).
Roy Fuchs August 22, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Letting Todd Akin off as a "buffoon" dramatically understates the impact of his ignorant, hurtful and misogynistic comments. And limiting his tenure to one week dramatically understates the length of time he will remain a symbol of much of what a progressive society continues to try to overcome.
Archie Bunker August 23, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I guess the media outlets are happy that they can dwell on something other than Joe Biden's "chains" gaffe to black people. The sad thing is that Buffoon Joe is just a heatbeat away from becoming our leader. Akin is only a guy running for office in a small state. Big deal. If he were a Democrat, it wouldn't make the news at all. Let's see how long the media beats this dead horse, and ignores the big question of Obama's failed economy.
Joan August 24, 2012 at 12:46 AM
The key point that is being overlooked is that there is just about no daylight between Akin's views and those of Paul Ryan, who has voted along with Akin on many, many anti-choice bills. Paul Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Akin to redefine rape, to make a distinction for "forcible" rape, so he is no stranger to parsing words when it comes to the meaning of rape. Akin just made the mistake of tipping his hand, but the ruling faction of the Republican party is in complete agreement with his reactionary views. Just look at the GOP party platform that was just put together for this election. Akin could have written this plank himself. Biden may make the occasional gaffes, but Akin's remarks revealed the strategy of a party that is intent on setting women's rights back many decades.
Roy Fuchs August 24, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Archie - Akin may be "only a guy running for office in a small state." True. But that's not the issue. It's that his words resonate with a larger part of this country than most want to acknowledge. It's also that he has become both a victim of and a driver for his own party. On one hand, Missouri Republicans neglected to vet their primary candidates to assure that they would have a challenger to Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill who wouldn't embarrass the national slate and take it off message. They appear now to rue that inaction. On the other, Akin has set an agenda that could well shape the election. Until Mr. Romney finds a positive voice and tells the American people who he is, what he believes, what he's accomplished and where he wants to take this nation he will be forced to defend Todd Akin, Paul Ryan and their thinkalikes. And I, for one, am pleased that Akin is determined to remain in the race. While I disagree with everything Akin stands for and says, he won the election. Removing his name from the ballot disenfranchises a large bloc of Missouri voters. Why would the Missouri Republican party punish Akin's supporters for what appears to have been their ineptitude?

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