Yesterday, Senator Claire McCaskill’s Republican challenger, Representative Todd Akin, shocked and horrified millions with his medical “facts” about pregnancy and rape. In an interview that went viral, Akin claimed that he had heard from a medical professional that pregnancy from rape almost never happens because, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
As a helpful blogger at The Riot Mag posited, Dr. Science here may have simply mixed up his human and duck reproductive systems.
Alas, it is more likely that Rep. Akin just wants to legislate on women’s bodies while knowing nothing about them. It’s hardly surprising; after all, in Michigan a member of the state’s House was banned from speaking on the floor after simply saying the word “vagina” – even though the legislature was about to vote on a bill that would place restrictions on abortion providers. The 112th Congress has introduced more pieces of legislation about reproduction than nearly anything else, and legislatures across the country introduced a record number of bills about restricting abortion access.
And beyond the general GOP’s war on women, Akin isn’t even the first political figure to state this exact position on the subject of rape and abortion. Rick Santorum voiced the exact same brand of “medical science” during his 1991 bid for the House of Representatives. Santorum wasn’t just a Senate hopeful – he served in the Senate for twelve years after four years in the House. He was the Republican front-runner for two months of the primary, and he’s delivering the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week. These aren’t the shockingly misinformed ramblings of one Todd Akin, but the actual beliefs of a man that many Republicans thought was a perfectly viable candidate for the presidency – a man who held federal office for twice as long as Akin has. This is a guy who won debates against Mitt Romney.
Of course, Santorum has since amended his position on rape and pregnancy. His updated beliefs – for modern times – is that pregnancies that result from rape are “a gift from God”. Much more reasonable and not at all delusional, right?
Unfortunately, this Republican science lesson isn’t even restricted to Rick Santorum. Pennsylvania Rep. Stephen Freind claimed that the odds of a woman being impregnated by rape were “one in millions of millions”, because the trauma of rape leads women to ”secrete a certain secretion” that kills sperm. Amazingly, Rep. Freind is still waiting on his Nobel Prize for Biology. In 1995, Rep. Henry Aldridge stated that “ people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant”. Aldridge later backpedaled poorly, saying that “To get pregnant, it takes a little cooperation. And there ain’t much cooperation in a rape.”
The moral of the story? Republicans of all station are willing to believe and broadcast what is clearly a biological lie. Whether they’re running for office or already holding it, radical Republicans will say or do anything it takes to keep every uterus possible under their control. What’s repulsive isn’t just that Todd Akin said this – it’s how many have said it before him, and how many will keep saying it after him.