Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Life

On Akin’s ‘Legitimate Rape’ Blow-Up

The Sisterhood’s Blair Thornburgh calls Rep. Todd Akin’s ill-considered words on abortion and rape “immature,” and she’s right about that. Unfortunately, this momentary villain of the political community is not alone in his ignorance and immaturity. Rather, his response resurrects an old Right-Wing canard: Anna North ran down some of the weirdest examples of this myth at BuzzFeed earlier this spring.

The idea that Akin simply verbalized an attitude that many of his peers already embrace but don’t dare utter aloud is more important than the immediate horse-race speculation about his political future. Will Akin be forced to drop out by the GOP? Will he stay in the race? Ultimately, writes my colleague Sarah Jaffe, it doesn’t matter, because the party that has produced Akin has buried itself deep in a misogynist hole:

This isn’t a tiny quibble over a definition of rape or even a hilarious moment to laugh at a Congressman who thinks women have magic reproductive organs. Akin’s “misstatement” is a symptom of a problem that plagues nearly an entire political party and has been given way too much quarter by those who should oppose it.

Some say it’s also a problem that has been given too much leeway by those supposedly in favor of women’s reproductive choice. At Salon, Irin Carmon argues that the whole concept of “rape exceptions” to abortion bans cedes moral ground from the pro-choice side to the pro-lifers. I’ve always felt the same way. You either believe abortion is murder or you don’t; you either think women and doctors are capable of making abortion-related decisions for themselves or you don’t. Once we say “in cases of rape and incest,” we make room for all of this slicing and dicing of “good” vs. “bad” abortions, for “necessary” abortions or “frivolous” ones. And in the eyes of those who don’t see women as fully rational actors, we leave wiggle room in the definition of rape. Ultimately, if we don’t want the government deciding whether a person was raped, we shouldn’t permit that same government to decide whether someone is somehow worthy of obtaining an abortion or abortion funding. That decision should be hers alone.

Akin’s comments also reveal another problem plaguing our society: the insistence of so many elected officials that myth and superstition supersede the facts. Evolution, climate change, reproductive health, women’s bodies — these are all in the same situation right now. Statistical and scientific information sits on one side, entrenched political opposition on the other.

Soraya Chemaly writes at the Huffington Post that the context of Akin’s comments goes far beyond gender:

What Todd Akin said and believes doesn’t just play into a media-catchy, election year “war on women” narrative. It’s part of a reactionary, fundamentalist backlash to modernity. It’s a war on science. It’s a war on facts. It’s a war on critical thinking.

Indeed, when people wonder why die-hard lefties get so wound up about the issue of evolution being taught in schools, it’s because there’s a slippery slope to denying science, and it ends in the beliefs that inform comments like Akin’s.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.