Yesterday, U.S. Congressman Todd Akin — Republican candidate for U.S. Senate out of Missiouri — was asked about abortion in cases of rape, and responded with a major faux pas:
“It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, if it’s a legitimate rape, that’s really rare. The female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
And then he went on to say,
The punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not in attacking the child.
I’ve received numerous e-mails and Facebook messages this morning asking me about this, and in a radio interview with Teresa Tomeo this morning, I was asked my thoughts on this as well.
First of all — NEVER say “legitimate rape!” Ron Paul used the same terminology last January and he got lambasted for it too, though he was saying that if it’s “legitimate rape,” then he’d give his daughter or granddaughter the Morning After Pill, which, of course, is not pro-life. This kind of remark only serves to perpetuate the suspision of rape victims’ accounts. It’s estimated that only 1% of rape victims ever see their rapist convicted as charged. Rape is rape. “Legitimate rape” almost sounds as if it was somehow justifiable. If you are 100% pro-life with no rape exceptions, there is no need to question the veracity of a rape victims’ account, because you are against all abortions. It would not matter if a woman was not or not raped. Rape exceptions in the law actually put the government in the position of having to ascertain when the child was conceived, who the father is, whether the child was conceived during the alleged rape or during intercourse with her husband or boyfriend, and if the child was conceived during the time frame of the alleged rape, then the government would need to determine whether the sexual intercourse was consensual or not. For example, this occurs because of the Hyde Amendment exceptions which provide for governmental funding in cases or rape. If a woman wants to have tax dollars pay for her baby to be aborted, then the states must determine whether she meets a Hyde Amendment exception, and therefore, must have standards for scrutinizing whether or not her story of rape is “legitimate.” So rape exceptions serve to perpetuate the injustice against rape victims that their accounts are to be viewed with skepticism, and it further leaves the majority of impregnated rape victims wholly unprotected under the law. Rape exceptions suggest that a “real rape victim” couldn’t possibly love “the rapist’s baby” and that rape victim mothers don’t exist. This is what Shauna Prewitt points out in her piece: “Giving Birth to a ‘Rapist’s Child’: A Discussion and Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Become Mothers Through Rape.” http://georgetownlawjournal.org/files/pdf/98-3/Prewitt.PDF
Secondly, these candidates seriously need coaching on how to respond to challenges to their 100% pro-life position, and abortion in cases of rape. Senator Rick Santorum, during his presidential campaign, said that he thinks that a child conceived in rape is “a gift from God,” and he was made fun of for that. Just Google images for “Santorum rape” and you’ll see all of the posters where he is mocked for this statement. While I believe it’s true that every child is a gift from God, including children conceived in rape, I don’t believe this was the best response for the interview. If it had been my birthmother sharing that she believes that I’m a blessing and a gift from God, she would not be mocked and ridiculed in the same way he was. And then Sharron Angle, during her Senate race in Nevada, said it’s a “lemonade situation,” which did not come across well at all. The problem is not with these candidates’ values. The problem is how they express them.
Here are my suggested responses for candidates when asked about rape and abortion:
1. The Supreme Court has said that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment for rapists and that rapists don’t deserve the death penalty. I don’t think the innocent child conceived in rape deserves the death penalty for the crimes of her father. It seems to me that is cruel and unusual punishment.
2. Rape victims are 4 times more likely to die within the next year after the abortion, with a higher rate of suicide, murder, drug overdose, etc.. As someone who really cares about rape victims, I want to protect them from the rapist, and from the abortion, and not the baby. A baby is not the worst thing that could ever happen to a rape victim — an abortion is. We need to educate the American public on the truth in this matter and not make public policy based on myth and misinformation.
3. Rape victims choose abortion at half the rate of the average unplanned pregnancy, which is over 50%. Only 15-25% of rape victims choose abortion, depending on the study. The majority of rape victims choose to raise her child — not “the rapist’s baby” — HER child.
Of course, I also think it helps to share a personal story and there are lots available, of women who became pregnant by rape and either regret aborting, are raising their children or are birthmoms, as well as stories of those of us conceived in rape and/or incest. You can find those stories on my website: http://www.rebeccakiessling.com/Othersconceivedinrape.html and www.rebeccakiessling.com/PregnantByRape.html