I will preface my remarks by saying that rape is always wrong, and that victims of rape are the victims of a tremendous evil. I firmly believe that the death penalty should be reserved for rapists (not the baby created thereby). With that said, I am not going to waste everyone’s time by repeatedly adding this diplomatic disclaimer to everything I write from here on. If you have a problem with something I write today, scroll to the very top of the page and read this statement again to ease your conscience. My job is to seriously tackle real, tough issues, not to regurgitate a bunch of platitudes and politically correct bile.
Todd Akin should probably drop out of his Missouri Senate race. I say this, not because of anything Rep. Akin has done, really. It’s Shark Week, and the GOP sharks are circling Todd Akin, who may be irreparably damaged as a result of the blood in the water. For those of you who haven’t heard, Rep. Akin has been virtually lynched this week following his remarks during an interview regarding abortion exceptions for rape:
“Well you know, people always want to make it as one of those things where how do you slice this particularly tough, sort of ethical question. It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors — that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But, let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Definitely a rambling, nearly incoherent remark, and technically incorrect, but not something he should be publicly flogged for. Rep. Akin, the next day, issued a contrite apology and clarified his remarks:
“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. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.”
Then the world went crazy.
Literally crazy. The cascade of condemnation for Todd Akin’s comments did not stop with the Democrat Party (which would have condemned his remarks even if they were correct because Akin was defending the right of a baby to life even if the baby was conceived through rape). The media maelstrom was not just exacerbated by the hypocritical nature of an intensely biased media, but by Akin’s own party. The Republican Party repudiated not just Akin’s remarks, but Akin’s character and did not just call for Akin to withdraw from his Senate race (which he led before his remarks) against Claire McCaskill. They tried to destroy him. Republican politicians and pundits from Ann Coulter to Karl Rove, from Paul Ryan to Mitt Romney condemned the remarks and the man. Ann Coulter called Akin a “selfish swine,” and the words “reprehensible”, “indefensible”, and “horrific” have been bandied about by Republicans regarding the remarks. Horrific? Indefensible? Really? Let me try.
All of these pundits and politicians have something in common. They’re wrong. Or worse, incredibly dishonest. As the deadline approached for Akin to withdraw without penalty on Monday afternoon, cynical Republicans everywhere were over the top in their piling on the candidate in a frantic attempt to replace Akin with the establishment favorite from the Republican primary that Akin had just won, Sarah Steelman. The rub of it is that Republicans were deathly afraid of losing a sure-fire Senate seat pick-up, and thereby losing control of the Senate. Make no mistake, the remark itself was not the issue, but rather the cynical belief that voters were too stupid to comprehend nuance and that they will base their decision in November off of one gaffe–one misspoken talking point.
Indeed, as new polling has rolled in in the wake of the remarks, McCaskill opened up a 10 point lead over Akin, 48-38. Nevermind the fact that McCaskill still did not broach the 50% mark which keeps her in deep electoral trouble at this stage in the game, the seat is now certainly in danger of being lost to Democrats. Not because of Akin. Rather, because of the spineless GOP political hacks that threw Todd Akin under the campaign bus.
I’m one of the very few people willing to sit here and write a defense for Todd Akin. In fact, aside from Mike Huckabee, I might be the only one. Really this is the primary argument that Akin’s detractors have been using–that the consensus is that his remarks were horrific and indefensible, and that he should be digitally lynched as a result. Why are they indefensible and horrific? Because they are indefensible and horrific, and everyone says so.
Of course. Where else have we heard consensus logic like that from before? Oh, right! The man-made global warming advocates! The globe is warming and it is our fault, and all of the respectable scientists say so. If you disagree, you are a Holocaust denier. A flat Earther. A truth denier. And the proof was always in the fact that most people believed that garbage.
This was a gaffe, plain and simple, and after Akin clarified his remark the issue should have been dropped. The important thing about gaffes is to determine what the person making the gaffe was trying to say, what they were thinking, and what it reveals about their person, their views, and their character. As I explained in a recent post about President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark, the president tried to recast those remarks as a gaffe. Not so fast. The thing about a gaffe is that it is saying something you didn’t mean, accidentally. Not saying something you meant, but regret later.
So let’s take a look, in depth at what it is that Todd Akin actually said, and what we should make of his statement and the arguments about how awful his remarks truly are. Keep in mind that your author is an investigator who is trained in interviewing and interrogation. Gaffes and errors are some of the most important elements in any written or oral affidavit in determining whether the subject is trying to hide something, what they are thinking, and when they are lying.
The setting of Akin’s remarks is important. Akin was being interviewed by a local outlet called the Jaco Report, which by all accounts was a friendly interview, in which Akin was probably unguarded and maybe even unprepared for some of the questions from the interviewer. The interviewer asked our subject, Todd Akin about the argument from the pro-abortion crowd that there should be a rape exception to abortion criminalization. As any pro-life advocate knows, the response to this question is that abortions from rape are extremely rare, making up less than 1% of abortions yearly (approximately 3,000 pregnancies terminated due to rape each year). The inclusion of the rape exception argument when millions of babies are killed each year is nothing more than a red herring. Akin was interviewing on set with a sympathetic interviewer and a known pro-life doctor, John Wilke. This common talking point is the mitigating factor that we should keep in mind when reviewing his remarks.
So Akin responds:
“Well you know, people always want to make it as one of those things where how do you slice this particularly tough, sort of ethical question. It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors — that’s really rare.”
So far, so good, right? Akin could have stopped there but decided to try to articulate why this is so. Here’s where we get into the weeds:
“If it’s a legitimate rape,”
For some reason, this provoked outrage. It was claimed that Akin was insensitive to rape victims, and that there is never a legitimate rape. Okay, perhaps his phrasing needed some clarification, but we’re really parsing hairs here to find something offensive, aren’t we? What did Akin mean? Well, rape, according to Alan Dershowitz, liberal giant, is the most falsely reported of crimes, and also one of the most under reported crimes. It is very difficult in the case of Duke Lacrosse, and Kobe Bryant, for instance, to determine the validity of claims of rape, but also on the other end, when rapes aren’t actually reported. So, if there are illegitimate rapes, logically are there not legitimate rapes? And by referring to them as such, is not the speaker actually showing sensitivity to the victim of real rapes? Present during the interview was Dr. John Wilke, MD. In April 1999 Wilke published a paper in Life Connector in which he wrote:
First, let’s define the term “rape.” When pro-lifers speak of rape pregnancies, we should commonly use the phrase “forcible rape” or “assault rape,” for that specifies what we’re talking about. Rape can also be statutory. Depending upon your state law, statutory rape can be consensual, but we’re not addressing that here.
There you have it. What is a legitimate rape? Well, since statutory rapes, which are many times consensual and between an 18 year old and a 17 year old, are considered rapes, shouldn’t we draw a distinction between forcible rape and consensual rape? No? Isn’t it the liberals who are always defending the statutory rapist as a lovestruck victim of the law? Let me put it this way, then–if you were out and about and saw a woman being raped would not it be your civic duty to at least report it? To stop it? To abort the heinous rapist’s life? What about if you are at Wal-Mart last night at 10:30 making a late night pregnant-wife food run, and you see an 18 year old boy and his high school-aged girlfriend in the prophylactics section picking out condoms and KY Jelly? Should I have intervened? Given them a lecture? Placed him under citizens arrest? Of course not. Statutory rape is not the same as forcible rape. There is such a thing as a legitimate rape, then. So, no problem here, especially because the consensual or forcible nature of rape is important statistically.
Why is this distinction important? Well, let’s let Todd Akin try to explain:
“the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But, let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
…Okay. This barely makes sense, and what does make sense is wrong. But horrific? Try again. Does the phrase “has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” sound to you like Akin knew exactly what he was talking about? No, of course not. So, again, what is our purpose? Trying to determine what it is that Akin meant by ‘ways to try to shut that whole thing down’. His detractors (and they are legion these days) have repeatedly parroted the lie that Akin said that females who are raped can’t get pregnant. This is not true. If the statement alone was not enough evidence, he followed his remark up by saying “let’s assume that didn’t work, or something.” Sound authoritative? No, of course not. But he is saying, obviously, that sometimes women who are raped get pregnant. The major issue here is that what Akin meant to say is that women who are forcibly raped are less likely to get pregnant than when they have consensual sex. This might come as a surprise to those liberals who didn’t pay attention in Sex Ed class, but Todd Akin is actually right about that.
First of all, women have sex more frequently consensually around the time of ovulation, when they are most fertile. This is instinctual. A rapist doesn’t know when their victim is ovulating. Logically speaking, women will get pregnant less when raped, then, right?
Next, the “upsuck theory”. During orgasm, the cervix convulses and the external orifice dilates. Women get pregnant more often when they climax during sex as a result of the drawing of semen toward the uterus. Presumably, women climax more often when they are voluntarily having sex as opposed to being forcibly raped. This theory is not thoroughly documented, but there are a few studies which documented this phenomenon. Komisaruk, Whipple, and Beyer-Flores, in The Science of Orgasm (Johns Hopkins Press) provided evidence in support of the upsuck theory, and other researchers in the publication “The Frequency and timing of coital orgasm in women desirous of becoming pregnant” also ascribed to this theory. Sexual research is surprisingly incomplete. It was not long ago that the female orgasm was thought to be a myth, and to date the existence of the “G-Spot” is still denied by much of medical science. The fact that the research on this is limited does not mean it is not accurate.
Lastly, it is proven that women under stress (rape?) miscarry more often than the usual 15% rate. According to one study stress increases the odds of miscarriage up to seven times. Other studies show that women with elevated cortisol levels (due to stress) miscarried at a rate 2.7 times higher than usual. Overall, according to a study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, roughly a little more than 22% percent of all pregnancies resulting from rape would be miscarried, or “spontaneously aborted,” as the study calls it. Overall, according to BabyMed, a rape victim is between 4 and 5 times less likely to get pregnant at all, not counting miscarriages.
So what does this say about Akin’s person, views, and character? Well, as to Akin’s person, it means he might not articulate conservatism very well, but I don’t think one flub and an otherwise pretty sterling record is enough to say that he is not capable of performing the duties of his office. Nor is he stupid. I’m one of the few people that derides this “so and so is stupid” nonsense. Akin is not stupid. Joe Biden is not stupid. Neither is Sarah Palin. A gaffe does not erase the intellectually demanding nature of the office. These attacks on national politicians’ intellects reflects propaganda on one hand on behalf of the purveyors of these myths and simple minds on the behalf of those who consume them.
What does this remark reflect about Akin’s views? Well, it means that he is staunchly pro-life and does not make a distinction between rape and consensual sex in determining whether the baby resulting from either is worthy to live or not. He acknowledges an intrinsic right to life. Good to go on all counts in my book.
What does it say about his character? If you are pro-life except in the instance of rape I would have to ask, what makes a baby conceived of by rape less worthy of continued living? Nothing, if you believe that the in-utero baby is truly a person. So there is a logical and a moral inconsistency to someone that favors death in the instance of rape as opposed to convenience. They are putting a price on life just like a pro-choice person, it is just a price that is a little higher. Either you believe a baby in-utero is a person, or you don’t. Either you believe there is nothing wrong with abortions and we should hand them out like ice cream cones or you believe it is an act killing another human being and should be illegal. Anything else, to include the view that abortions are tragic and we should make them safe, legal and rare, is a load of crap. Akin realizes this and this reveals a tremendous amount about his character.
What becomes clear is that though Akin’s comment was technically incorrect, he wasn’t that far from the truth. The ghastly response to Akin’s remarks appear to be more related to the offendee’s own ignorance. Dr. John Wilke (read his paper here) and the interviewer knew what Akin meant when he tried to paraphrase (badly) these talking points. In the end, what we have is a poorly worded, well meaning commentary by a man who, by all accounts, is a good guy. If we start calling for the head of every politician that misspeaks and quickly corrects their gaffe, there will be no one left to serve publicly. Joe Biden makes a gaffe a day that is worse than what Akin said. Obama said there were fifty-seven states and can’t pronounce “corpse” men. Barbara Boxer said that Romney and Ryan must not like their mothers and first wives (neither have been divorced). Elizabeth Warren thinks she is an Indian for crying out loud! Akin was pilloried by his own party over an innocuously mis-phrased interview remark because they were freaked out by the prospect of losing the Senate seat. They jumped the shark on circling and attacking Akin because the issue was time-sensitive and they were not interested in becoming educated about what was said and rationally examining the gaffe first. Many are even aware that this is a non-issue but are unwilling to explain it because they think voters are too stupid to understand a nuanced issue and feel it is easier to sacrifice Akin. As Reagan once said, “if you’re explaining, you’re losing.” Many believe this to be absolute, and good enough reason to sacrifice their principles.
Akin may very well lose that seat, but not because of his remark. If the Republicans miss seizing control of the Senate in November by one seat and Missouri is the difference, it will not be Todd Akin who is to blame, it will be those cynical, spineless Republicans who just became Claire McCaskill’s greatest ally. If Republicans lose the Senate because of Missouri, they will get what they richly deserve. Should Akin drop out? Maybe, but only because he was railroaded by his own party.
David Teesdale, writing on the topic of rape and abortion. Abortion and rape are both tough issues. If you don’t like what I have to say, come at me with facts. Real facts. Your offense is not sufficient reason to disagree with what I write. You are only entitled to your own opinions, not your own facts. Fact-check, think about it–seriously think about it, and if you still have a problem, bring your facts to bear in the comment section. I am fully capable of being convinced by a cogent, coherent and correct argument.