Women’s issues ensnared in political blunders
It’s outrageous to think that rape can be anything other than rape; however, some politicians are continuing to put what constitutes as “rape” into a narrowly defined box.
For Republican Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, he’s just another politician who got criticized for speaking his mind. Later he said he misspoke, and apologized in a televised ad, but at the time —Aug. 19, 2012 — Akin was sitting with Charles Jaco of The Jaco Report at Fox 2 — the St. Louis, MO., station KTVI-TV.
Jaco asked Akin: “If an abortion could be considered in a tubal pregnancy, what about in the case of rape? Should it be legal or not?”
Akin responded: “That seems to me, or at least in the case of 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 didn’t work or something. I think there should be some sort of punishment, but that punishment should be toward the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Jaco nonchalantly moved on to the next issue at hand — with questions about the economy — but the rest of the world wasn’t so forgiving to Akin’s remarks.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote the following email to her supporters: “Now, Akin’s choice of words isn’t the real issue here. The real issue is a Republican party — led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong. I’m outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the dark ages — if you agree, join me in taking a stand for women.”
Meanwhile, although Romney promised to get rid of federal funding to groups like Planned Parenthood — a not-for-profit organization that provides education on sexually transmitted diseases as well as facilities for birth control, abortion and screening for cervical and other cancers — he also criticized Akin: “His comments about rape were deeply offensive. And I can’t defend what he said. I can’t defend him.” Doesn’t that sound a little hypocritical? Romney says he would oppose abortion in the instance of rape, but he also opposes groups that provide for abortion. Meanwhile, Ryan, Romney’s running mate and GOP vice presidential candidate, has co-sponsored the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” with Akin last year. This act says that only victims of “forcible rape” would qualify for federally funded abortions.
Grace Woodward, president of IC Feminists, said she thinks this rhetoric is scary.
“I don’t live in Missouri, but I live in America where this is happening, and where Mitt Romney didn’t support what he said, but he’s a flip-flopper and going back and forth on reproductive rights,” Woodward said, “so how are we supposed to feel when things like that are happening so blatantly?”
Cyndy Scheibe, executive director of Project Look Sharp — a media literacy initiative at Ithaca College — said she doesn’t know of anyone who defended Akin’s words.
“He kind of acted like he didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but it’s a little hard to interpret it in many other ways,” she said.
Even conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh had his two cents to add to this debate: “This is absurd. That belief that a woman’s body shuts down and the whole notion of “legitimate”/”illegitimate” rape, that’s the thing that bothers me about it. That’s just absurd. It’s not intelligent.”
Limbaugh claimed he knew what Akin was trying to say: that abortion should not be allowed, even in cases of rape. This pro-life view is one Romney shares. On his campaign website, Romney promises to overturn Roe vs. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that limited abortions to the first trimester of pregnancy, unless the woman’s life is in danger.
As a woman between the age of 18 and 49, statistics show that I tend to lean pro-choice. According to an early May 2012 Gallup Poll, I am one of the 50 percent of that age and gender bracket who identify that way. This doesn’t mean I don’t value life. I just believe that a woman should have the right to choose. After all, it’s her body, and she will have to live with her decisions for the rest of her life. Would a child’s life really be better if the mother cannot support him or her? What about the woman who becomes pregnant after she was raped? Should she live with those memories for the rest of her life? Let’s face it: Even Rush Limbaugh said the whole business of legitimate and non-legitimate rape is absurd.
So should Akin be held accountable for his verbal blunder?
Well, as Scheibe said, “If you’re going to run for office, you got to think on your feet.”
Scheibe doesn’t think Akin should be running for office — or if he does, she wants him to lose really badly.
Right now, Stuart Rothenberg, the editor and publisher of the non-partisan newsletter The Rothenberg Political Report, ranks the Akin vs. McCaskill race to lean Democrat in favor of incumbent Claire McCaskill. It just goes to show that the world seems to agree Akin may not be the best candidate to politically represent a large demographic: women.
Qina Liu is a senior journalism major who wants the right to choose. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.