Akin: a man of peculiar principles

It is of course sheer political opportunism to seize on Todd Akin’s use of “legitimate” to qualify “rape” as representing his views. There is not a chance that he meant to signify that rape is ever legitimate, but was rather clumsily trying to distinguish stranger rape from drunken acquaintance rape. And the debate over whether abortion following rape should be permitted is largely theoretical, allowing both sides to get righteously worked up over a principle. Akin’s doctor expert claims that less than 1% of rapes result in pregnancy; the New York Times’ medical experts allege that the data is weak but that the pregnancy rate may be more like 5%, still a pretty low number. But if Akin believes he is following God’s mandate, it shouldn’t matter if every rape resulted in a pregnancy—the principle is the same.

The real scandal of Akin’s statement should be his invocation of what may be pseudo-science (if it is; the Times’ experts were not as resoundingly persuasive on the question of whether trauma decreases the chance of pregnancy as I would have expected) and, frankly, the underlying position that would require a women to carry to term, day after day for nine excruciating months, a fetus conceived by stranger rape. If the religious right opposed all killing, they would have a firmer ground to stand on. But they have been consistent supporters of America’s recent wars, which predictably and unavoidably lead to the deaths of innocent civilians—individuals with fully formed consciousness and lives, unlike an embryo. And why should military conscripts be killed, if the principle is that all life is sacred? Some army grunt cannot be held responsible for the imperialist ambitions of his country’s leaders. In the area of war, the religious right makes distinctions and accommodates relative values. But in the area of abortion, those who would make no exception for rape see only the rights of the fetus.

Liberals and the left are trying to conflate opposition to abortion in the case of rape (fanaticism, in my view) with any effort to condition abortion on parental consent, say, or to outlaw very late term abortions (more defensible positions). Such a strategy is, again, opportunistic, but if it impales the Republicans, I will not shed too many tears.

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6 Responses to Akin: a man of peculiar principles

  1. CJColucci says:

    If the comparisons are to make any sense, we ought to have a baseline of pregnancy rates from unprotected, consensual sex. Any idea?

  2. John says:

    It is worth pointing out that if rapes didn’t lead to pregnancy fairly often, men would not have evolved the desire to rape. The fact that rape has been so common throughout history means that it must have a Darwinian payoff.

  3. mike shupp says:

    A modest proposal: Let’s offer a reasonable sum, say 100 million dollars, to any woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape and carries the fetus to term. For different reasons, this probably looks like a fair deal to both conservatives and liberals. In five years or so, we get back together and discuss whether there’s evidence for biological mechanisms that protect women from unwanted pregnancy.

    Really, who on earth could be opposed to this?

  4. The Mark Who Was Here First says:

    I used to be opposed to abortion. But I am so disgusted by the cretins who dominate this viewpoint that just the mere fact that I would be making common cause with them has caused me to become agnostic on the subject.

  5. Acilius says:

    @mike shupp: I know several women who carried their rapists’ babies to term, and all of them are likable enough that it would make me happy to see them given $100,000,000. But I suspect making a policy of awarding that amount of money to every woman who makes that decision would have an adverse impact on the inflation rate.

    While all figures relating to rape are frustratingly imprecise due to underreporting and other data-gathering problems, the best study we have indicates that 30,000 American women a year become pregnant as a result of rape (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8765248.) That study is 16 years old now, but more recent studies, while not as extensive, all put the number in a similar range. If only one woman in ten chose to carry her rapist’s baby to term, your scheme would therefore call for $300,000,000,000 a year to be awarded to them. The women I’ve known who have been in that situation have, like so many other new mothers, been transfixed by baby shoes. If your scheme were to go into effect, therefore, we might expect a bidding war that would drive the price of baby shoes to fantastic levels.

  6. Florida resident says:

    Dear “Mike Shupp” !
    Have you thought about the idea of Unintended Consequences ?
    How many ladies will fake the “rape event” just to get the money ?

    Your F.r.

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