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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Todd Akin Incites Twitter Frenzy

I can't speak for Missouri Senate Candidate Todd Akin. I can't unsay the comments he made that are currently whipping both sides of the aisle into a TwitterFrenzy.

First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare, if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

The left is basking in outrage like only the left can, ignoring the fact that rapes were documented at the Occupy camps that they so rigorously defended. They are dropping the hammer on Akin - the same hammer they held back when New York Mayor Bloomberg interfered to effectively force women to breastfeed. The same hammer they held back when Whoopi Goldberg made her "raperape" comments. The same hammer... Well, you get the idea.

The right is falling all over itself, but can't seem to pick a direction. Some are buying the hype and asking Akin to step down. Some are even engaging in the kind of mudslinging we generally attribute to the other side. And some are breaking down Akin's comments and trying to make sense of such a seemingly idiotic statement coming from someone as well-versed as Akin.

So what's the answer? Let's go to the statement.

First of all, what Akin "understands from doctors" is absolutely right. The likelihood of forcible rape resulting in pregnancy is very low - studies suggest a 1-4% chance. Forcible rape even during the up to three fertile days per month becomes less likely to result in pregnancy because stress impairs the body's ability to conceive. (which may be what Akin meant when he talked about the female body "having ways to shut that down.")

So the only question is, what did he mean by "legitimate rape?" That question I can't answer, but I can make a few suggestions.
First, it is possible that he was attempting to differentiate between forcible rape and statutory rape. The wording was clumsy at best, but if that's what he meant it was at least accurate. Forcible rape is far more likely than statutory rape to create a stressful enough situation for the body to defend itself and prevent conception.
Another possibility is that he was attempting to draw a line between rape and the girls who claim rape while their parents are present to avoid embarrassment but then admit to consensual sex once the adults leave the room.

Regardless, the fact that he misspoke is obvious. His campaign has already released a statement clarifying that:

The question now is how many people will allow a bad sound bite to be the deciding factor in an election that could make or break the Republicans' chance at regaining a majority in the Senate.


  1. Even 1% is too many. According to a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. The journal put the national rape-related pregnancy rate at 5% among victims age 12 to 45.
    And the real issue is that Mr. Akin apparently thinks there are "legitimate rapes" thereby implying there are non-legitimate rapes.
    He needs both a biology and an ethics lesson.

  2. Maybe you neglected to read the entire post or Congressman Akin's response: no one ever said that a low incidence of pregancy-from-rape was okay. In fact, Akin said that all cases of rape or assault, whether or not they result in pregnancy, are horrible acts that should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. He also said that what he feels strongly about is that the baby should not be the one punished for such assaults - the rapist should be punished.

    Also, if you did read, he and I both pointed out the obviously bad choice of words when calling rape "legitimate." The likelihood is that it was simply a clumsy way to differentiate between forcible rape and statutory rape - which can at times be consensual sex which is termed "rape" due to the age of one of the participants.

    Your concerns were addressed in both Akin's statement and my post. If you are suggesting that he needs a biology lesson and an ethics lesson, it would not be much of a stretch to suggest that perhaps a reading lesson for you would be in order.

  3. Regardless of what he "meant," he thinks the government should force the woman to have the rapist's child. Can you say FUCKED UP?

  4. Actually, what he said was that the proper way to punish rapists was to punish the rapist rather than the child. If you don't have the ability to continue discourse without resorting to foul language, be advised that I will delete any further comments.

  5. That's how you deal with disagreement? Delete people's comments? Why do you have a blog with a comments section if you are going to censor other views.

    That Mr Akin "does not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action" is PART of what he said. That's a perfectly legitimate and logical view. But that doesn't address what so many people (including a huge number of Republicans) found reprehensible about his statement.

    We could have a discussion about that if you would allow.

  6. I don't censor views. I never said I would censor views. I said I would delete comments from people who cannot express their views without using crude language. Are you capable of rational discussion without resorting to swearing? Then by all means, let's discuss.

  7. Except I didn't swear. Nothing even close to it. (There is a commenter above who did swear, in all caps no less, yet somehow his comment is still there).

    What I did explain was that what Congressman Akin "understands from doctors" is absolutely wrong. There's no legitimate medical study that has concluded that "if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

    I also explained why a 1-4% (or more) pregnancy rate is quite high. Again, most women use birth control. And even loving married couples purposely trying to have a baby can have a hard time getting pregnant.

    And I said how Mr Akin's statement didn't include an apology (yet found an entire paragraph to blame Democrats for using him as a distraction when Republicans have arguably been just as critical).

    I'd also point out that Mr Akin's statement of clarification wasn't very clarifying. You yourself wrote "what did he mean by "legitimate rape?" That question I can't answer . . ."

    If Mr Akin truly explained his comments, then why is that question (what he meant by "legitimate rape") one you can't answer?

  8. Actually, I got the email containing your comment but it never posted to the site. I didn't remove your comment - I actually thought you might have pulled it, as that has happened before.

    The reason I thought you might have pulled the comment yourself is that when I read it, it didn't make much sense. There are plenty of medical studies that document the effects of stress on conception - excessive stress causes the hormone progestin (necessary for conception) to cortisol (the stress hormone) which makes it more difficult to get pregnant when under physical or emotional stress. There is also plenty of documentation on the amount of physical and emotional stress that a woman endures during and after a rape. To draw a parallel between the two is not outside the realm of possibility, nor is it even much of a stretch.

    1-4% pregnancy from rape is unacceptable, just as any rape period is unacceptable. But consider this: a woman who becomes pregnant after a rape is more likely to seek medical treatment and eventually report the rape. Which means that the number of pregnancies to rapes may be skewed simply because there are proportionally more rape victims who don't report because they didn't result in pregnancy.

    As for "legitimate rape," the answer is likely something I hadn't even considered. Think about the number of people in this country who oppose abortion "except for rape." No imagine how many "rapes" would suddenly be reported if abortion were illegal "except for rape." A good number of those rape claims would likely be "illegitimate," or simply, false.

    And as for his clarification, he simply admitted that he misspoke. You can do with that what you will, but to get even that much from any politician is a major victory.

  9. I totally grant you that stress can make conception more difficult in some women. But there's a huge golf between "more difficult" and a process that all women have to "shut that whole thing down." To wit: No one would consider using stress a form of birth control.

    You say that the percentage of pregnancies due to rape might be less than it seems. Is that your wishful thinking or is it based on research? The link you include in your post says the OPPOSITE. To quote: "Rape-related Pregnancy may be more widespread than we know - many women are understandably reluctant to talk about it. "

    An admission from a politician that he/she misspoke is not a "major victory" by my (or, I would guess, most people's) standards. If you think so, then, well, you are entitled to your opinion. I'd just point out that politicians do it all the time. In the last few weeks alone, how many times have President Obama ("no one builds their own business"), VP Biden ("put them in chains") and Mr Romney ("I like to fire people") clarified something they said? Politicians do it all the time.

    Look, I totally respect that Mr Akin is purely pro-life (which is to say, he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and when the life of the mother is threatened). But if Mr Akin's concern was truly people making a false report of rape as a means to get an abortion in the hypothetical situation you outlined then he should have said so. If he meant that stress (almost) always keeps a rape victim from getting pregnant then he should have said that. But he didn't. Not in the Jaco interview. Not in his so-called clarifying statement. Not in the Huckabee interview that just aired.

    Here's an actual, non-hypothetical problem in this country: Rape is a hugely under reported crime (and, thus, rapists far too often go free). One reason why is that victims are afraid they won't be believed. In using a term like "legitimate rape" (and not clarifying it after), in calling doubt on victims because of some vague understanding he got from unnamed doctors, Mr Akin is making that real problem worse. He's making it harder for rape victims to get the justice he claims to want for them. How can you support that?

  10. (By "golf" I meant, of course, "gulf." But it is a large enough "gulf" for a whole lot of metaphorical "golf.")