Confronting Todd Akin’s Anti-Choice Nonsense

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A SYTYCB entry

On Sunday, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) spouted off something so head-spinningly awful, so absurdly, patently false, even Republican presidential running mates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are trying to distance themselves from the Congressman.

On a Fox-affiliate talk show in St. Louis, Akin—who is running for Senate against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill—attempted to explain why he’s opposed to abortion in cases of rape.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin said in an interview on KTVI’s Jaco Report. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

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The blogosphere, thankfully, blew up reacting to his “legitimate rape” pseudo-science. Evan McMorris-Santoro at Talking Points Memo quickly dug up a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that calculated “32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.”

Hours later, Akin’s camp, rushing in for damage control, issued a vague retraction statement. “In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that 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,” the statement says.

But, as McMorris-Santoro points out, this is not the first time Akin has tried to limit or alter the definition of rape. Last year, Akin and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan co-sponsored a house resolution to expand the Hyde Amendment, which already bans the federal funding of abortions except in the cases of rape or incest. The original language in H.R. 3 would have restricted abortion funding even further, only exempting rape in cases of “forcible rape”—whatever that means. This, from a man who also wants to ban the morning-after pill and end school-lunch programs.

Consider this: Part of the anti-abortion conservative base might actually believe Akin’s profoundly unscientific postulation, that a woman’s body will just magically reject unwanted semen. After all, many gullible folks got riled up by a 2011 joke story that claimed Planned Parenthood was building a giant Abortionplex in Topeka, Kansas.

From Rachel Neely's We Are Woman Flickr set

While Akin’s nonsense is broadcast and repeated ad nauseam, a pro-choice demonstration at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday has been resoundingly ignored by the media. At the We Are Woman rally, surely, speakers like Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.), Senator George Barker (D.-Va.), and Planned Parenthood CEO Laura Myers had something sensible to say about reproductive rights. But whatever they said, it went undocumented.

Instead, a few right-wing blogs had a field day mocking a handful of CODEPINK demonstrators who showed up in astounding, awesome vagina costumes. To be fair to the mainstream media, the turnout for the event was discouraging. On the user-generated CNN iReport, Emily Rivera estimated that more than a thousand protestors showed up to the march, which also called for equal pay and the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

From Rachel Neely's We Are Woman Flickr set

While a gathering of 1,000 feminists is nothing to sneeze at, that amounts to less than one person for every legislative provision restricting abortion or access to contraceptives introduced in state legislatures in the last two years. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the number of such laws has skyrocketed since 2010—more than 1,000 were put on the table in 2011, and more than 350 have been authored this year. In 2011, state lawmakers passed 69 anti-choice measures, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Without a doubt, the War on Women is real, taking place in Congress and state legislatures all over the country. And unless we step up to fight it, buffoons like Akin will win.

From Rachel Neely's We Are Woman Flickr set

Thanks to Rachel Neely, rachelm1981 on Flickr, for taking these photos at the We Are Woman rally.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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