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.