Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senator in Missouri, is under fire for using the term “legitimate rape” and relying on bogus science in his anti-abortion crusade, but we’re used to this type of right-wing lunacy here.
It was only last legislative session, for example, that the so-called “personhood” bill granting civil rights to a fertilized egg was passed by the Oklahoma Senate before it died its appropriate death in the House. Again, progressive Oklahomans are no strangers to crazy, reprehensible movements that attack women’s basic human rights, and we’re going to see even more attacks next legislative session.
On Sunday, as widely reported, Akin said that “legitimate rape” rarely resulted in pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The use of the word “legitimate” was incredibly demeaning to rape victims, and his ideas about the “female body” are bogus. Akin later said he should have used the word “forcible” instead of “legitimate.”
Akin, who has been asked to step down from the race by leading Republicans, was apparently regurgitating the extreme ideas of Dr. John C. Willke, who first made the claim in 1985, according to a New York Times article. The claim was called “just nuts” by a Harvard medical professor, the article stated, but it has been used by the most extreme elements in the anti-abortion movement in its quest to stop abortion even in cases of rape.
Undoubtedly, one reason Republicans want Akin out of the race is his close connection with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, now running for vice president on the Republican presidential ticket. Akin, who is also a member of the House, worked with Ryan in 2009 to sponsor a personhood bill similar to the one introduced into the Oklahoma legislature last year by state Sen. Brian Crain of Tulsa.
I would argue that except for the use of the word “legitimate” these personhood bills are as extreme as Akin’s comments about rape. If, for example, a fertilized egg in a women’s womb is automatically granted rights, then all rape victims would be denied the right to have abortions after their attacks. Akin just relies on bogus science and demeaning rhetoric to justify that type of extremism.
There’s little or no difference here between the radicalism of Akin and that of Ryan or Oklahoma’s Crain.
This is how writers for Think Progress put it:
Should Ryan and Akin’s personhood agenda take effect, however, it would drastically reduce women’s reproductive choice. The bill declares that a human egg obtains “all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood” the moment it merges with a human sperm. Thus, a Blastocyst-American would not only enjoy the same constitutional status as a fully grown adult, it would also enjoy any “legal” attributes enjoyed by adults. Because every states’ law makes it a crime to kill a human adult, the likely effect of Ryan and Akin’s personhood bill would be to treat killing a fertilized egg as the same thing as homicide.
The personhood bill in Oklahoma last legislative session drew a strong protest, and the House later declined to vote on it. The Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidated an initiative petition drive that would have put the issue on the ballot. Here’s how radical the personhood movement is: Even conservative Mississippi voted down a personhood initiative. The personhood philosophy could obviously lead to the banning of certain birth control methods as well.
Akin faces Democratic U.S. Sen Claire McCaskill in his race. Whether he steps down or not, the issue is clear: A large number of Republicans have become so radicalized and extreme that their positions sometimes resemble those of archaic, fundamentalist cultures in some countries that not only deny women basic human rights but repeatedly demean them as well.
Women will face an uncertain and grim future under a potential Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan administration. The Akin and Ryan partnership proves that.