Monday, August 20, 2012

Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and "legitimate rape"

Ryan's views on rape and abortion similar to Todd Akin's

During any presidential election year, it's inevitable that people attempt to link candidates to others who share their philosophical views. For instance, many have tried doing so with Barack Obama and Saul Alinsky, the famed author of "Rules for Radicals."

Yet, the association between Obama and Alinsky is a hard one to make -- Alinsky died when Obama was still just a child. And it's not as if Alinsky was a "radical" himself -- his book is more a lesson for radical youth to start acting within the system rather than against it if they want to create more change in the world.

So when associations between political candidates are made, they have to be taken with a grain of salt. They aren't necessarily strong ones to make, and in some cases are distortions of the truth or flat-out lies.

But the connections between vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) are stronger than people might think, and go beyond the remarks put out by the latter gentleman earlier this week.

Recent comments from the Missouri Republican -- who is running for Senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McGaskill -- have landed Akin in some pretty hot water.

From what I understand from doctors, that's really where, if it's a legitimate rape, uh the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down...
Basic human anatomy is apparently not one of the strong-suits of Todd Akin, who is a member of the Science, Space, and Technology (PDF) committee in the House of Representatives. Akin's theories on the female body run contrary to scientific fact: one out of every 15 instances of rape result in the victim becoming pregnant, and there are reportedly more than 32,000 rape-related pregnancies per year.

Akin's inability to grasp the basics of health education are amusing and disturbing all at once, and are partially based upon an archaic, medieval belief that has long-since been disproven. But the idea of "legitimate rape" purported by the Congressman is also troubling.

The term may have had its origin in a bill that Akin had authored in early 2011 that would have limited what conditions the government could foot the bill on abortions for. Currently, the federal government cannot use funds to pay for abortions except for certain circumstances -- rape, incest, or in cases where the mother's health is at stake.

Nothing about abortion coverage will change under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives sought to pass a bill anyway, one that would prevent such policies from being offered within the insurance exchange.

Akin's bill would have still made exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother's health -- yet, in the original text of the bill, the exemption for rape would have changed (PDF), to only cases of "forcible rape."

Presumably, this meant pregnancies the result of other "methods" of rape -- instances where the victim was drugged, for instance, or in some other ways had been rendered mentally incapacitated -- would not be protected as an exemption defined by federal law.

The bill in its original form had several co-sponsors -- including Rep. Paul Ryan. Though the bill was eventually changed to reflect all forms of rape (not just "forcible") as exempted from restrictions, there's legitimate reason to believe that Ryan still supports the original context of the bill.

Ryan frequently touts himself as "as pro-life as a person gets." And though the Romney campaign has come out against the remarks that Akin made this week, they may also want to consult with their VP candidate, who has in the past made statements opposing rape as an exception as well:
Although Mr. Romney has stated this position before, Mr. Ryan, a seven-term congressman from Wisconsin, has opposed abortion in the case of rape. During his first run for the seat in 1998, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that he opposed abortions in all cases except to save the life of the mother.
Emphases added.

Again, associations between candidates for office need to be examined within greater context. Paul Ryan didn't say the words that Todd Akin did, and there's no way to determine if Ryan's beliefs about the female body mimic those of Akin's errant remarks. I would hope that they don't.

Still, we DO know that Ryan has the same restrictive attitude towards abortion when it comes to rape that Akin has. And past statements from Ryan make it clear that he believes even a pregnancy the result of a rape must be carried out, regardless of the victim's feelings on the matter.

I don't mean to pretend that I know how a woman feels -- I carry a Y-chromosome myself. But if you're a woman, and you care anything at all about your reproductive future, this should terrify you.

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