Tuesday, August 21, 2012


"What a moron, doesn't he know anything about biology?"

Todd Aiken
This blog is fairly small (about 200 readers a day) and has virtually no influence on anyone, but I still want to do my part to clarify something that is being misconstrued or deliberately lied about recently.

By now I'm sure everyone has heard about US Senate candidate Akin from Missouri, the Republican challenger to Democrat Claire McCaskill. He was leading by 11 points because frankly Missourians were tired of McCaskill and want her gone, especially after her strong support of and votes for the ACA ("Obamacare"). So Aiken didn't need to go do an interview at a radio station with a man deeply hostile toward him and all Republicans, but he did.

The interview moved into a discussion of abortion, and like me, Akin believes that abortion is wrong even if a woman is raped or the victim of incest - why kill the baby? So here's what he said:
What I understand from doctors is that it's really rare—if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
And off to the races the media went, and along with them went a lot of libertarians who hate and fear social conservatives. "Akin said women cannot get pregnant when raped! What a moron!" Everyone yelled, and the jokes started up.

The problem is, that's not what he said. Yes, its fun to play "kick the SoCon" and aren't those fundamentalist Christians weird, but the truth is, what he said is actually scientifically supported, even if he stated it very awkwardly. There are three parts to his statement.

The first is this: "What I understand from doctors is that it's really rare."

This is a statement about rape victims becoming pregnant. According to a studies done by Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the Medical University of South Carolina, and by Planned Parenthood, the best information is that only 5% of rapes lead to pregnancy. That is opposed to studies done that indicate the average chance of attaining pregnancy from a single consensual encounter is 11% (it ranges from 9-20% depending on the time of month).

In other words, fewer than half as many pregnancies result from rape, and the chance is very small. Which is what Akin was saying: its really rare for a woman to become pregnant from a rape.

The second statement is this: "if it’s a legitimate rape."

This sounds awful and is probably the most awkward or poorly chosen portion of the statement. It sounds like he thinks rapes aren't legitimate or something, which is just awful. Now I can't read the man's mind, but in the context of the discussion, Akin was talking about women who claim rape when they are not. The reason I say this is that the interview at this point was about rape victims getting abortions and how easy it is for one to simply claim a rape and get one in order to avoid the limitations.

See, if you say abortion is illegal except in cases of rape or incest, then how are you going to make sure only women who suffer these evils are allowed an abortion? What's to stop a woman from saying "yeah my cousin knocked me up" or claim rape without it being real? Its basically no limitation on abortion at all - particularly for abortion clinics who survive by doing the procedure and won't exactly be putting out a lot of effort to turn away customers.

So his focus on "legitimate" rape was in contrast to these examples. In other words, he was saying "some women will fake it, but if we're talking about the real thing...." Again, nothing particularly problematic here.

The final statement is this: "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Now this sounds idiotic and like the man has no concept of biology. It sounds like he thinks women can flip an internal switch and avoid pregnancy or something. And if you've paid no attention to the previous two statements you might even claim he thinks pregnant women cannot get pregnant. That's ridiculous, in context and in the paragraph in question, but lots of people keep saying that with a sneer.

I can't say exactly what he means here, but it looks in context like he's suggesting that women tend not to get pregnant from rape, so it must be some biological cause, something that makes it harder for the egg to fertilize or the fertilized egg to implant. Perhaps the trauma of rape, perhaps the physical misery and psychological damage afterward. Perhaps the usual mechanism of proper sexual activity is not engaged and the woman's body doesn't have as good a chance of attaining pregnancy. Whatever the cause, studies indicate its just not as likely.

Never, in any of the interviews or statements the man made, did Akin say that women cannot get pregnant from rape. He clearly stated that it could happen in the same paragraph as this last statement, only that its rare. Its very frustrating to me that so many on the right are buying into this idiotic lie, that they're willing to swallow the left's spin on this so readily. And not a few of them are doing it because they hate social conservatives that much and are willing to believe any evil of them, even without rational basis.

Now, I don't write this to defend the man. I write this to defend the truth which I see so stupidly being thrown aside out of spite or just ignorance. Akin was a fool, but he wasn't ignorant of biology and he wasn't a scumbag mocking women who have been raped.

Tod Akin fumbled the ball badly while talking to a hostile audience he never should have been talking to in the first place. Akin was cruising to victory and had no shot at losing if he just took it easy, ran a few ads reminding people why they were so upset at McCaskill, and kept his head down. He did the interview anyway - likely out of ego - and made a stupidly awkward statement about a topic there was no reason to be discussing this election cycle in the first place.

In other words: Akin did a terrible job showing poor judgment as a politician and should have known better, after years in office at the state level. Maybe he's done boneheaded stuff like this before but it was local and unlike national elections, you can get away with having a bad day or stumbling a bit in a statement locally. People understand you're human and are not always on top of your game. At the national level, you have a lot more enemies and they demand you never make any mistakes or you are the worst possible human on the planet.

Because of this effect, Akin's awkward statement in a stupid interview is going to hurt not just him but Republicans nationally for a week or so. By September nobody will much remember this event, but in the short term it is damaging in a fight that is very important to win. And further, now every Democratic Party candidate in America is going to howl "legitimate rape, legitimate rape, legitimate rape" at the top of their lungs from now until 2052. There's even more than a small chance that this phrase will come up in court every time a man tries to point out that the woman accusing him of rape is lying. What's that, you're saying it wasn't a legitimate rape?

Yes, Whoopie Goldberg implied that raping a 13 year old girl isn't really rape if you drug her first and you're a big time movie director. Yes, leftists sneered about raping Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. That doesn't matter, the deck is totally stacked against Republicans and in the favor of Democrats. They can get away with saying horrific, ghastly stuff and do it regularly without much if any harm. Republican politicians cannot.

And while McCaskill is despised in Missouri, the spin and coverage of this could very well lead more than a few voters to say "well I don't like her, but I don't want someone who said that to be in office" and vote for her anyway.

And like the Harry Reid reelection, that would enrage me. Not because I hate these people personally - I don't even know them. It enrages me because politicians who arrogantly dismiss the overwhelmingly stated will of the people and ram idiotic and unconstitutional legislation through anyway must be punished by losing their jobs, at the very least. Failing to do so sends a clear signal: you can do whatever you want, ignore the public, you can win anyway. Just do what you feel like and there's no cost.

And that simply cannot be allowed to occur. The only check voters have against corruption, stupidity, and radicalism in office is to throw them out the next chance they get. And if we fail to use that, then it encourages corruption, stupidity, and radicalism. So Akin, despite being basically right in his statement, must go.


RebeccaH said...

The whole thing boils down to the word "legitimate", which was an unfortunate word to use, when he really meant "violent". Some politicians need to expand their vocabularies.

rbee said...

You think critically and reflectively before you write, a rare habit in the world of bloggers.