In The News
Akin on rape opened larger can of GOP worms
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted August 23, 2012
In the media feeding frenzy over Todd Akin’s disgusting foray into rape scholarship, commentators have largely ignored how he provided a mental gateway into a broad range of weird science and misguided doctrinaire that underpins so much of today’s right-wing extremism -- and so much of the legislation to demonize and resist every Obama approach to problems of the deficit, immigration, health care, energy, international relations – you name it.
On many fronts, misguided science and theology are being used to sell a narrow view of society and a legislative skew far beyond the “small versus large” argument about government. Akin inadvertently opened a window into that warped thinking
Swiftly, top Republicans joined the Democrats in condemning Akin for his reference to “legitimate rape” -- that women forced to have sex have a magical way to shut down getting pregnant. He was, of course, implying that if they still got pregnant they weren’t raped and were crying wolf. He apologized belatedly when confronted with the hard facts -- the medical evidence he cited has long been discredited as foolish and 32,000 pregnancies a year are caused by rape even in these days of Roe vs. Wade exceptions that allow limited abortions.
Akin was wrong on so many counts he became a laughingstock. But let’s not let Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders get away with claiming he was wacko and they “never heard” such disgusting views. Their outrage was more political calculation to get Akin quickly out of the Missouri Senate race before he hurt them nationally with female voters. In typical Tea Party stubbornness he has refused to go.
But let’s be crystal about this -- they were not really upset with what he said but how it would play out at a time when voters nationwide were already upset by their attacks on Planned Parenthood, their preference for mechanical vaginal probes to deter abortion and their hatred of the Affordable Health Care’s common sense coverage of contraception as a necessary basic service.
In fairness, there was also politics more than outrage when Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill shrewdly said Akin should stay in the race to honor the will of his Missouri voters -- – who wouldn’t want this clown as your opponent?
But the medical myth that women in the trauma of rape secrete some kind of anti-baby-juice has a long history in conservative Christian politics. It was concocted to defend anti-abortion absolutism by ignoring the economic, social and male dominance issues that led to steady dangerous abortions whatever the law or the religion said. When abortion was totally illegal in the US, that led to an underworld of coat hanger abortions and 18% of maternal pregnancy deaths a year -- thousands of women dying each year because they lacked money to go to Sweden.
Akin’s big mistake was saying out loud in public what many in his camp have long believed in private and even been taught in a few churches despite their denial. The physician who fabricated this myth – suggesting the trauma of rape made conception remote, which is more likely for the frenzied brute who misses the mark than the woman attacked -- has actually advised Romney on policy, just like he advised Reagan.
It was Ryan who co-sponsored with Akin bills to make every fertilized egg a person, though most of these eggs aren’t the “I” of a future baby. Bluntly elevating those poor eggs into “life begins at conception,” for those who understandably embrace that concept, is another medical misfire flying in the face of established theological and scientific reality.
Ryan denies that the egg as personhood law he helped write had any intention of interfering with any woman’s right to contraception, though it obviously criminalizes most forms of contraception. So why is the national media so slow to call a liar a liar and let him duck a full answer? Perhaps for the same reason they now let Romney change his views almost daily on the abortion topic.
But let’s move past the anger women must feel about these demeaning ideas that they have to be mandated how to think and how, given their crazy hormones, must be instructed how to behave by men who don’t have a clue to their interior plumbing.
This is the surface of the adolescent science currently ruling Republican politics. Akin, a six-term member, sits on House science committees where he is an instrumental voice in disbelieving that human behavior is any factor in climate change and doubts the science that man’s activities are fouling our atmosphere.
From this stems resistance to policies and opposition to regulations involving ecology, energy and even education. He is reflective of a large body of right-wing thinking, perhaps influenced by fear that thinking more broadly could interfere with the corporate profits funding their campaigns. But all this is certainly influenced by religious dogma about God’s control over nature – hey, who are we to interfere? – and man’s dominion over all creatures, including women.
That “man has no impact on climate change” view might be easier to swallow in the wilds of Texas miles from other people where the dust and air seem free -- especially if you ignore that smell of petroleum or the rumbles of earthquakes beneath your feet as fracking takes serious hold.
But anyone who lives near Los Angeles smog or the Midwest rust belt created by factory remnants – or for that matter, like Akin near St. Louis – almost doesn’t need the gathering scientific data to understand. Face it, there are close-minded economics that affect a broader humanistic view and bad divinity schools along with good ones where preachers stuffed nonsense into young brains – and we keep electing their products to office admiring their certainty.
Something is clearly amiss in this approach to government, not to mention the environment, energy choices and other reaches that Akin influences in the House and still believe Missouri will let him muck with in the Senate.
While his misconceptions about ovulation made the headlines, Akin did expose a deeper world of how adolescent locker room chat activated by bad reading and poor preaching has been codified into a ever narrowing backwards morality – this from a school of people who think they are so holy as to impose their views on others.
A whole generation of misguided extreme Christians have grown up not with the obvious excesses of the Ku Klux Klan but with the belief that women have gotten too big for their britches, that “boys will be boys,” that “forcible rape” (a Ryan-Akin legislative term) is different than women being allowed to just say “no.”
From such attitudes also spring all these Internet myths that government assistance is not an extension of Christian values but “handouts” to lazy people. That environmentalists care more about an insect than about people and progress. That corporations are “people, my friends” (Romney) and other observations that ignore that bad behavior exists on all sides of the spectrum, that business owners actually have more power to duck the rules than poor people, and that changes in society require innovative new support not outdated ignorance.
In Wisconsin, state Sen. Glenn Grothman gets away with lumping single parents and children born out of wedlock together as triggers for criminal investigation of child abuse – ignoring that most incest and child abuse takes place within large families, that half the couples in the nation today live outside marriage, that many nurturing single parents survive unintended circumstances and lack of early education (which he also opposes), that gay parents (something else he opposes), do as well raising children as hetero couples, In other words, he is living antiquity giving conservativism a bad name predicated on partial data, abusive personality, bad thinking – and particularly warped historical understanding.
Speaking of which, this is also the problem with so much “originalism” in interpreting the US Constitution – constricted right-wing thinking longing for a past era that either never existed or was uglier in reality than these misplaced longings.
The founding fathers clearly feared that, if they left some human social concept out of their document, down the road some fool would assume they didn’t want it in there, and sure enough we appointed or elected those fools to degrade the heritage. The founders chose words sparingly to challenge their era’s mores and paint large principles in simple terms, succeeding in creating a document to flex with the times.
And thus, what man can shoulder meant one thing in the 1700s so the “right to bear arms” didn’t include a one-man rocket launcher to bring down an airplane, since neither launcher nor planes had been invented. Nor was the telephone, video, Internet or computer data-mining when the outlines of free speech and free press were promulgated. Change was supposed to challenge our thinking, not return us to the Dark Ages in law and religion.
Our attempt to artificially limit the Constitution is actually a natural fit with how we under-think rape and science, ignoring what mankind does best – learn, adjust and advance.
As bad as Akin’s ideas are, few would suggest he should to strapped to an examination table and probed to correct his thinking – even if his side believes that such punishment is needed to get women to conform to their laws.
So let’s not for a second pretend his views were not close to the mainstream of conservative misconceptions. Let’s not let Ryan-Romney and company escape the consequences of the adolescent religiosity that still informs too much of their ideology. We can probe their thinking without, as they would us, tying them to the table.