Rep. Todd Akin (R, Mo.) is running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Claire McCaskill (D.). He is a tea party candidate who happens to be pro-life. In a television interview he did for a local news program, he was questioned about his stance against abortion, and specifically on whether abortions of pregnancies as a result of rape.
Akin answered that his understanding from doctors was that "[i]f it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Akin tried to frame it against the idea that Americans try to save lives and then fleshed out his thought process in regards to his belief that rape should not be an exception by saying that on the off chance that somehow this "shut down" does not occur, that any punishment should be doled out to the rapist and not to the unborn child (Fox 2 Now).
Being pro-life is one thing, but this viewpoint that rape somehow cannot result in pregnancy is not a new claim made by Akin. As inelegant as his statement was, he is not the first politician to make this claim. He is not even the first to make this claim this year. In fact, the wars over abortion have made some truly heinous words come out of people's mouths as can be seen in a list compiled by Anna North at Buzzfeed.
The thing is that abortion is more than a hot button issue. While it may be difficult to see any opposing viewpoint, when it comes to abortion, even the words opponents choose to describe themselves tend to be charged with emotion. Pro-life proponents feel that their title perfectly encapsulates their position.
The belief that life begins at conception (even before for those who believe that even birth control pills should be illegal as the belief is that they prevent the chance of life by blocking a fertilized egg from implanting in the wombÂ—that argument can be found here) can lead those in the pro-life movement to take a very hard line against abortions, no matter the reason.
For them, a life is a life and there can be no compromise.This does not leave room for open and honest debate, and that can lead to bad things like the bombing of abortion clinics and the assassination/murder of George Tiller. And this is why elected officials spouting this kind of nonsense can be dangerous.
You can view the pertinent part of the interview below:
The entire interview can be seen in two parts here.
Akin realized that his remarks might not be received well and offered this response:
As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.
I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.
What do you think of his apology/response? Do you believe as Todd Akin does that the trauma of rape somehow prevents pregnancy? Or that regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception, that women should be made to go through with all pregnancies?