Monday, 20 August 2012

In which rape is rape, and Akin is wrong

I don’t even know where to start with Todd Akin’s imbecilic comments yesterday, on abortion; rape; rape’s ‘legitimate’ form (I know. What the actual? I can’t even); and the fact that women apparently have hitherto unknown magical powers which enable our uteri to block any resulting pregnancies.

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” So said the illustrious Representative from Missouri.

Because, well… I mean, where does one start when faced with such abject moronicism? Just thinking about such cretinous statements makes me want to spit with rage.

I could argue that ‘ways to try to shut that whole thing down,’ as Akin so charmingly refers to an unwanted pregnancy, don’t exist. Or rather, that they don’t exist in the form of a magical sperm-destroying uterus, but they do in the form of the morning-after pill. But, um, doesn’t he want to ban those too

I could argue that there is no such thing as ‘legitimate’ rape. There’s just rape. Whether it’s by a stranger with a weapon; or in bed by a husband you’ve been with for years: if it’s not consensual, it’s rape. Even though Congressman Akin might think otherwise. (Rape charges “in a real messy divorce” could be used as “a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband,” apparently.)

I could ask, incredulously, how a right-wing Republican in favour of a smaller government and less intervention in people’s lives, could justify government intervention in what women do with their own bodies? Or how on earth the welfare of a two-celled organism could take precedence over the welfare of an abused and traumatised woman? (Although when you consider nowhere in his remarks does Akin mention the woman, only the rapist and the child, it’s sadly quite easy to see where his priorities lie - and it ain’t with her).

I could say that, leaving aside the vile, vile things Akin said and the misogynist frames in which his argument is set, is that the science is against him. It’s an old study, admittedly, but in 1996, a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reported that 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. (Related: Could we take Akin off the House Science and Technology committee? Like, prontissimo.)
But actually, what really concerns me is the precedence comments like these set in the political discourse.

As much as the UK suffers from a rarely-admitted superiority complex over our younger breakaway cousins, we tend to adopt their trends with barely-concealed alacrity: the Starbucks culture, the school prom, everyday elements of our language have all made their way across the pond. And the GOP’s current War on Women and their reproductive rights is something I’m genuinely scared will translate over here too.

Nadine Dorries, whilst (arguably) less completely terrifying than her anti-abortion US counterparts (but not by much), is – I believe – the thin end of the wedge. The more Dorries and her ilk talk about restrictions to abortion, couched in non-alarmist terms, the more anti-choice rhetoric becomes an acceptable part of discourse.

I don’t want to countenance the possibility that one day, if I fall pregnant and – for whatever circumstances – I don’t feel capable of having a child, the choice of a safe and legal termination of that pregnancy won’t be available to me. I don’t want men in the ivory towers of legislation to decide for me whether or not I should be allowed to take the morning-after pill; and I don’t believe the form of contraception I choose to use should be anybody else’s business.

Whilst we might look at these cases with horror and alarm, and thank our lucky stars that we’re not living in an American state with an alarmingly medieval attitude to the personal freedoms of women, I’m not sure that in the UK, we can afford to keep taking for granted our reproductive freedoms. 


Jem said...

There were several moments in which I had to actually pinch myself to check these comments were in fact being uttered and that I wasn't trapped somehow in an elaborate bad dream. I really can't find the words for such beliefs, the most fundamental of human right is, surely, control over one's own body?!

Talking of which - abortion will be restricted here in the UK over my own DEAD body. Lets not take America's lead on this in any way!

Jem xXx

Blonde said...

Jem - utterly, utterly vile beyond belief, no? I know what you mean about having to pinch yourself: HOW, in 2012, can people honestly believe these horrifying things? I really am increasingly concerned that it's becoming more acceptable in the UK to countenance restrictions to abortion. I'm with you: over my dead body.

Smidge said...

I disagree with his comments totally, rape is always rape, I do believe we have a right over our own bodies, plus i'd fight to death for my right to choose.

But this is a really difficult one - and not so black and white as its been made out - by stigmatising rape babies in this way, by promoting abortion in the case of rape - surely we are pushing people towards abortion?

Like the 32 thousand babies are lesser people because of how they have been conceived? The child is innocent after all.

Blonde said...

Smidge: I don't think it's black and white - but then I'd disagree people are promote abortion in the case of rape. They're arguing that - for those who want it - an abortion should be available. I think they're very different things. And whilst those 32,000 people of course aren't lesser people, I imagine that personally speaking, I'd have very conflicted feelings, and consequently possibly a difficult relationship, about a child who was conceived in that way.

Smidge said...

I believed that the issue Akin he was speaking out against was that campaigners in the US are looking to ban abortion in the US apart from in the case of rape? I believe his view is that there should be no abortion to protect unborn children in all cases.

Akin is speaking out against something that could quite easily happen in the US and if your point is correct, the UK too - that babies born through rape are stigmatised as being the only ones suitable for abortion.

His view might be that there is no abortion, the issue for the rest of us is that we should allow women the right to choose in every situation. No body wants to end up in that middle ground.

Girl Friday said...

And let's rewind for a second as well to another core issue in the US debate on abortion rights; when a cell or a group of cells becomes and baby. Anti-abortionists tend to believe as Smidge mentions, in life at conception. That is a key and fundamental issue in the entire debate, always will be. If the religious right in continues to use language and promote the idea that it's a "baby" from sperm meets egg and THAT concept creeps over here; we are all screwed.

mary {figwittage} said...

Oh. My. Gosh. What the hell is happening to the country that I'm living in? Everyday I'm watching the news and cursing at republicans. I thought it was 2012, not 19freaking20. Romney/Ryan is a scary duo and Akin... oy! Don't take away my choice!

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