The nation’s political blogosphere has been in an uproar the past few days over comments made by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), a GOP conservative running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Claire McCaskill.
Akin ignited a firestorm in th
e “Show Me State” – and across the country – when he said “legitimate rape” almost never leads to pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.” His comments, carried by St. Louis television station KTVI in its “Jaco Report” Aug. 19, drew swift, sharp rebukes from Democrats and Republicans from coast to coast.
After the national outrage his comments generated, Akin attempted to defend his comments in this Aug. 19 statement: “In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in the interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.”
Later that day, the U.S. Senate hopeful took to Twitter to reiterate his statement that he had misspoken: “To be clear, all of us understand that rape can result in pregnancy & I have a great deal of empathy for all victims. I regret misspeaking.”
The next day, Akin tried to walk back his comment a bit further, explaining that he meant to say “forcible rape” instead of “legitimate rape.” That should come as no surprise to those that have followed Akin’s political career. In 2011, he was one of the original co-sponsors of a bill in the House of Representatives to narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape.” That piece of legislation, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” also was co-sponsored by vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and more than 200 other GOP House members.
But looking at the videotape of the interview, which was recorded a few days before it aired on KTVI, it’s clear Akin said exactly what he meant to say. He also had this to say in the interview: “From what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare.”
On its face, Akin’s claim is indefensible. A Washington Post story, titled “Story: Rape victims have higher pregnancy rates than other women” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/20/study-rape-victims-have-a-higher-pregnancy-rates-than-other-women), cites a 2003 study that found that “a single act of rape was more than twice as likely to result in pregnancy than an act of consensual sex.”
Also, according to a story on the website talkingpointsmemo.com, “a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that ‘rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency’ and is ‘a cause of many unwanted pregnancies’ – an estimated ‘32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.’ ”
The abstract for that study can be found here: http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(96)70141-2/abstract.
Those who have followed Akin’s political career can scarcely claim to be surprised at his latest comments, as he has been – and continues to be – an outspoken opponent of abortion in all cases, including health cases, incest and rape.
The only place where Akin might have left a sliver of daylight for abortion to be allowed is in the case of a tubal pregnancy: “There are certain things, like you know you get a tubal pregnancy – where the child has absolutely no chance of surviving – and then you do the best you can to save the mother’s life,” he said Aug. 8 in an interview with Kansas radio station KCMO. “So, I think you optimize life, is the way I would probably describe it.”
A story on that interview can be found here: http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/08/todd-akin-ban-the-morning-after-pill.php.
In explaining his views against legal abortions for rape victims, Akin said, “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
To Akin, the woman has no role in this scenario other than carrying a baby from a violent act to term. His anti-abortion stance can be traced back more than 20 years. In 1991, as a state legislator, Akin voted in favor of an anti-marital-rape law, but only after questioning if it could somehow be misused “in a real messy divorce as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband.” His quote about the law appeared in the May 1, 1991, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Unfortunately, the national media has not done due diligence in holding Akin accountable to exactly what he “misspoke.” All it would take would be one question to clarify the issue once and for all: “Mr. Akin, please tell us exactly in what way you ‘misspoke’ in your interview.”
Akin’s answer to that question is what’s missing from this story, and it’s a shame no one in the national media stepped up to ask him that question.