I’m about halfway through my goal of reading 20 books in 2012, and the book that I’m currently reading couldn’t be more perfectly timed; what with this week’s comments by Todd Akin:
Didn’t think you heard him right? Me either. Here’s the quote:
Jaco: “Ok, so if abortion can be considered in the case of tubal pregnancy, or something like that, what about in the case of rape? Should it be legal or not?”
Akin: “Well, you know, people always wanna try and make that as one of those how do ya, how do ya, slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question; it seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare- if it’s a legitimate rape, uh, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down. But lets assume that, maybe that didn’t work or something, you know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment oughta be on the rapist and not against the child.”
No joke, this guy is suggesting that, on a whim, women can shut down the reproductive process. Mr. Akin wasn’t exactly clear on how exactly, we are able to “shut that whole thing down”, if one of us is “legitimately” raped; but I can only imagine that we women unknowingly have the ability to either (A) repel the rapists sperm, or (B) suck an egg that may have already been released from one of our ovaries back in, or (C) unleash our vagina dentata.
I have so many problems with his statement I don’t even know where to begin. Lets start at the beginning. Mr. Akin calls the idea of abortion associated a pregnancy resulting from rape “one of those tough ethical questions.” Really? I don’t see anything tough about this ethical question at all. Women should never, under any circumstances, be forced to carry a pregnancy resulting from rape. The only question of ethics I see here is what to do about castrating her rapist.
Next, Mr. Akin states that “from what he understands from doctors, that’s (pregnancy resulting from rape) really rare”. Wrong. Just plain wrong. A three year study of 4,008 adult American women, ages 12 to 45, was reported on in 1996 by OBGYNs at Medical University of South Carolina. The objective of that study was to determine the national rape-related pregnancy rate and provide descriptive characteristics of pregnancies that result from rape. That study indicated the following: The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. (Holmes, MM; Resnick HS; Kilpatrick DG; Best, CL: Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425-2233, USA.)
I would hardly call a 5% incidence of pregnancy resulting from rape “really rare”. By contrast, a Rare Disease, as defined by the Rare Disease Act of 2002, defines “rare disease” as “any disease or condition that affects less than 200,000 persons in the United States,”or about 1 in 1,500 people (0.067%). Some other percentages from the CDC to give perspective on “rarity”: the rate of autism among children is 1 in 88, or about 1.1%, and the rate of heart disease among women is 4.6%. I don’t think anyone in America would consider the incidence of autism or heart disease among women as “rare”, yet the annual incidences of these diseases are less than the annual incidence of pregnancy resulting from rape.
Next up: “legitimate rape”. Sure he, later said that what he should have said is “forcible rape”, but I’m not really sure how much of a difference his correction makes. He’s still implying that there are different degrees of rape. This is bad. Bad bad bad. When would rape NOT be forcible? Whether someone is drugged, tied up, knocked out, threatened, or scared into having sex against her will, it’s all rape and its all wrong and it should all be looked at as equally reprehensible.
Now we get to the really really scary part: “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down”. This, Ladies, from a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Shocked doesn’t begin to describe my feelings about this statement from a grown adult, presumably educated beyond fifth grade, and holding public office. Lets do a little review:
A woman’s typical menstrual cycle last approximately 28 days, some longer, some shorter. This cycle begins with menstruation (shedding of the lining of the uterus). In the days following the beginning of menstruation, the uterine lining begins to grow once again, in order to prepare for the possibility of pregnancy in the coming month. Around day 14 of the menstrual cycle, at the end of the follicular phase, the ovary releases an egg, or ovum, which travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus, which has been preparing for its arrival for the previous two weeks. This is called ovulation. The days immediately preceding and immediately following ovulation are the time during the menstural cycle that are a woman’s most fertile period. If the egg is fertilized as a result of sexual intercourse during this fertile window, the egg will attach to the uterine lining and a pregnancy results. If the egg is not fertilized, it passes by the uterine lining, and the lining is shed with the next menstrual period. Ok, this is basic knowledge people. If you need more please refer to this handy article on Wikipedia, available to anyone with internet access (this means you, Todd Akin).
Now, I’m no OBGYN or biologist, but I am a woman, and have been ovulating now for about 20 or so years. And not once have I been able to “shut that whole thing down” on my own, on a whim. To imply that, during a rape, a woman can will her body into not getting pregnant is offensive and essentially puts the onus of not being impregnated by her rapist on the victim. Not to mention, it defies the workings of a womans reproductive system, which is controlled by biology and hormones, not wishing and hoping.
Ok, we’re at the end here. He finishes it up with “But lets assume that, maybe that didn’t work or something, you know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment oughta be on the rapist…” Yes, Todd, lets assume that maybe willing her body into not getting pregnant by her rapist didn’t work, because getting pregnant is a result of timing and biology, things which women do not control. Should she have politely requested that her rapist come back in 3 to 5 days, as she was ovulating and her fertile time of the month is inconvenient for all parties? I’m sure that would have worked.
And there should be some punishment on the rapist? How about there MUST be punishment on the rapist, and NOT on the victim? A victim of rape should be at liberty to recover from her assault without being forced into carrying her forcible rapists child. Of course, a woman should also be at liberty to choose to do otherwise if she feels compelled to carry a pregnancy forced upon her by a rapist. But under no circumstances should a woman be forced by law, culture, or society, to be continually assaulted by her rapist through the takeover of her body, mind, and life by a pregnancy resulting from rape.
Now, wait, didn’t I mention a book at the beginning of this rant? Yes. I’m currently reading How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran. What I want to see is Caitlin Moran interviewing Todd Akin, and countless other white republican men (WRM, new acronym?), on their opinions of women and our place in society. Please women, and men, go read this book. At a minum, listen to this interview with Caitlin Moran on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. We women need to stand up and together refuse to be treated as the weaker sex. We need to refuse to be oversexualized. We need to refuse to be faulted because we have the ability to bear children. We need to reclaim feminism. I AM A FEMINIST!