Akin, a long-time opponent of abortion rights, is running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri. When asked on local TV about whether he thinks women who have been raped should be able to access abortion, Akin said, “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
That’s right. According to Representative Akin, a woman’s body can tell the difference between sperm from a rapist and sperm from consensual sex, and can “shut that whole thing down.” Which means, of course, if a woman says she became pregnant as a result of rape, she must be lying. And if you’re trying to outlaw abortion, there’s no need to provide for an exception for rape survivors, because survivors of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant.
Politicians of all persuasions have expressed outrage at Akin’s statements. And they’re right. This is outrageous.
But here’s what’s really troubling — Akin didn’t just make this stuff up on his own. When you look at what’s happened in Congress over the past two years, you’ll see that Todd Akin isn’t the renegade crackpot his party is making him out to be, he’s in the mainstream of the conservative majority in Congress.
Many of the politicians who are condemning Akin today have stood with him on these issues in the past – they’re just careful enough not to say it out loud.
In 2011, Rep. Akin was one of 227 co-sponsors of a bill that would have rewritten the law banning the use of federal funds for abortion. Rep. Akin’s bill would have only funded abortions for women who were victims of “forcible rape.” Every single House Republican and 16 Democrats voted in favor of the bill – 251 votes in favor of letting the government place value judgments on whether some “kinds of rape” are more traumatic than others. Among the co-sponsors was Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who called Akin’s recent statements “inexcusable.”
Akin and Ryan were also co-sponsors, along with 54 other House members, of the Sanctity of Human Life Act of 2009, which would have given a fertilized egg “the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution.” This bill would have outlawed all abortion with no exception, in-vitro fertilization, and many forms of birth control, as well as making miscarriage subject to criminal investigation. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he supports this so-called “fetal personhood” legislation.
If you still have any doubts about the level of institutional support for Rep. Akin’s ideology, consider this – Rep. Akin’s party just released the official platform it will adopt at its upcoming convention, including support for a “human life amendment” to the United States Constitution. Drafted on Monday — after the expressions of outrage — the anti-choice platform does not include any exceptions for survivors of rape or incest.
What does this all mean?
It means that politicians will publicly condemn the statements of others, even as they support the beliefs behind those statements. For a lot of these politicians, Akin’s statements represent exactly what they believe and how they’ve been voting for years.
We need to know what these politicians really believe, what they’ve done, and what they will do if they are elected. On November 6th, we all need to vote as if our health and our reproductive freedom depend on it.