Trigger warning. This entry contains discussions of rape and miscarriage. Please exercise self care when reading this post or skip it altogether if you prefer.

Dear Todd Akin. Every time you lie about sex, a pony gets punched in the face.

 

On Sunday an interview with Todd Akin, the Republican senate candidate from Missouri, went to air. Like many on the right-end of the political spectrum, Akin is anti-abortion. When asked about abortion in the case of rape, Akin replied thusly:


Sweet. Lord.

Like most of the Internet, I was agog at Akin’s tale of reproductive lockdown. The arrogance, condescension and concentrated levels of wrong in his statement were so extreme that I wanted to respond the way a toddler might. I wanted to smash things and let loose with ear-piercing screams because LEGITIMATE RAPE WTF!!? and shutting down conception IS TOTALLY NOT A THING!!! and who the eff gave this a MASTERS DEGREE and let him sit on a SCIENCE COMMITTEE!!! The world has gone crazysauce and I WANT MY MOMMY!!!

Subsequent to the interview, Akin claimed to have “misspoken”,  that he has “deep empathy … for the thousands of women who are raped every year”.  Let’s add “meaning of the word ’empathy'” to the list of things that Todd Akin is making up. Insinuating there’s rape but there’s also the not-rape that people call rape? That’s not empathy. That’s stone-cold douchebaggery!

But back to the idiocy about rape-as-contraception. It’s not true. Which I’m sure you know, but Akin went there, so now I have to put it into print. Rape does not reduce one’s risk of unintended pregnancy. Physicians and statistics tell us that rape survivors are just as likely to conceive as people who engage in consensual sex.

It’s no secret that I’m pro-choice. I do support access to the full gambit of reproductive health options, including safe, legal abortion.  But for me, pro-choice means more than that.  I believe that people have the right to choose how they care for their own bodies. I believe that people have the right to choose how to live their lives. And I believe that people have a right to live according to their own ethics and morals.

I’ve been on the choice side of the abortion debate for a long time. I’m passionate about my beliefs and I can be zealous in my advocacy. Over the years, I’ve been challenged by opponents and by my fellow supporters to consider my position on this issue and what it means to be pro-choice. Once upon a time, I would have told you it was only about ensuring a person’s right to safe, legal abortion. But now it’s more than that. It’s about defending a person’s right to self-agency. I believe in a person’s right to choose what they do with and to themselves and to act in accordance with their own needs, desires, morals and ethics.*  For me, being pro-choice puts me in the super-awkward position of accepting that abortion is not okay with some people. And even though I personally disagree with the anti-choice position, I feel I have to respect that many of the folks on the other side of the debate are as sincere in their beliefs as I am in mine and that they are acting/speaking according to their own set of ethics.

So it isn’t Todd Akin’s opposition to abortion that makes me angry.  If he believes that life and all the inalienable rights that accompany said life begin at conception, okay.  If he had said, “I don’t support abortion in cases of rape because I still consider that fetus a person who has the same right to life as we all do,” I wouldn’t like it, but I wouldn’t be all twitchy with rage.  No. What’s pissed me off is the way Todd Akin tried to defend his anti-abortion position by straight up lying about  “the female body” and its magical rape defending abilities.

It’s not easy having morals. They’re so comforting in the abstract – shiny, guiding principles that help us navigate life’s dilemmas. But morality is a tricky beast and living according to our principles is rarely as easy as we hope it will be. I can see why rape is an ethical sticky spot for people on the anti side of the abortion debate. I think it’s especially difficult for people who, unlike a certain Senator-wannabe, have legitimate empathy/sympathy for rape survivors. I think they do understand that having no choice but to carry to term in that situation is horrendously unfair.

There are instances where being pro-choice is equally challenging. I respect a person’s right to choose. That doesn’t mean I’m always comfortable with the choices people make. There are times when being pro-choice clashes in a yucky way with my feminist principles or even my sex-positive ones. The problem with ideals is that in practice, they’re rarely ideal.

Meanwhile, Todd Akin wanted to pretend that his anti-abortion beliefs are ideal, beyond reproach. Instead of accepting the inconvenient truth – that pregnancy as the result of rape is unjust – he spun a tale about how people who are raped can’t get pregnant. But some tales are just too tall. Akin perpetuating rape-myths to serve his own self-entitled sense of “rightness” doesn’t speak to his passion about preserving life. Instead it displays epic arrogance and acallous insensitivity toward rape survivors and what they’ve experienced.

Shame on you, Todd Akin! I call foul on your back-handed victim-blaming and junk science. No matter how strongly you feel about access to abortion, it does not give you the right to lie.

 

 

 

* Assuming that when those actions involve other people, there is consent.

Comments

  1. seenonflickr says:

    Can we also add “misspoken” to the list of words he doesn’t understand? Mis-spoke is when you say 17% but meant 1.7%. It doesn’t mean “when I said womens’ bodies have biological anti-pregnancy capabilities when legitimately raped what I really meant was I am opposed to abortion”.

  2. Tweepwife says:

    Thank you for writing this. It confirms that I am not crazy and that I felt rage, and sorry for all the face-punched ponies. As a survivor of sexual victimization, this man’s position and the words he “mis-spoke” – which means he forgot to cover them up this time – horrified me. But more, they threw me back to the time of confusion when the struggle to understand that the only kind of real rape is not the ‘hit-over-the-head-by-a-stranger-in-the-back-alley” but rather coming to terms with what consent, or non-consent, REALLY means. And this guy does not get it. It enrages me that that they think they can decide to validate a woman’s rape experience through a window of lies. Then there is the whole craziness of what bodies can apparently do that does not even bear repeating.

  3. djbarbie says:

    I’m so incredibly upset that he isn’t stepping down*. It is the most decent and meaningful thing to do considering the circumstances (the circumstances being that he clearly isn’t sorry for what he said or how he said it).

    *being forced to step down