Rep. Todd Akin: "Legitimately Raped" Women Don't Get Pregnant

When people say that the GOP has launched a War on Women, things like this are at the core of their complaint: Rick Santorum saying that rape victims who get pregnant should "make the best out of a bad situation." Georgia state Representative Terry England comparing women to farm animals. And now, Republican Congressman Todd Akin insisting that allowing abortion in cases of rape is unnecessary because women who are "legitimately raped" don't get pregnant.

Is the Republican party really anti-women?

"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare," Akin told KTVI-TV, a Fox affiliate in St. Louis, in an interview broadcast on Sunday. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

He seems to genuinely believe what he's saying, even though it's wrong on so many levels -- physiologically, statistically, emotionally. But what's especially chilling is the implication that if a woman becomes pregnant after being sexually assaulted, then it wasn't really rape -- that on some subconscious, biological level, the rape victim was actually asking for it, and her pregnancy is proof.

Hours later, the congressman (who is running for U.S. Senate in Missouri) said that he "misspoke," which in this case may be code for "said what he really thinks and then realized that it may alienate voters."

"I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year," he said in a statement. "I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election."

Notice that he doesn't say his take on rape and pregnancy was wrong, just that he wasn't empathetic enough.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign issued a statement late Sunday saying that that "Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement" and "A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."

But newly minted Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has repeatedly said that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. And in 2011, Ryan co-sponsored (with Akin) the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" that recognized "forcible rape" but indicated that cases in which the victim was too young to consent, coerced, drugged, mentally incapacitated, or unresponsive did not count as rape.

Like Akin, Ryan is also a co-sponsor of the "Sanctity of Human Life Act," which says that life begins at fertilization. Similar legislation passed in the Dominican Republic years ago; on Friday, a 16-year-old girl there died from complications of leukemia after doctors refused give her the life-saving chemotherapy she needed because she was 9 weeks pregnant.

That's right: Doctors hesitated to save a teenager's life because doing so might endanger an embryo. Is it really better to dither until both die?

There's a fine line between making abortion illegal and giving the government the authority to make it mandatory. Does that seem far-fetched? Look at China and the forced abortions that come with its One Child Policy. Look at India and the forced sterilizations under Indira Gandhi in the mid-1970s. Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. By all means, choose life -- just remember that the operative word there is "choose."

While Republicans insist that Democrats are distracting voters from the real issues by fussing about reproductive rights, they're glossing over the fact that the GOP keeps bringing abortion up to begin with. The same pro-life politicians who insist that birth control is tied religious freedom also advocate cutting services that help women who choose to raise their kids themselves. (Required reading: Proverbs 29:7 and 1 John 3:17-18.) The Mommy Wars have become political; poor women who want to stay home with their kids are seen as gaming the system while rich women who do so are doing God's work.

The reason that so many people feel that there's a war on women is that so many politicians at so many levels seem fixated on reproductive issues when there are so many other things at stake. Defunding Planned Parenthood doesn't boost the economy. Outlawing abortion doesn't create jobs. And insisting that "real" rape victims can't really get pregnant doesn't in any way help anyone, born or unborn.

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