“Legitimate rape” comment unsettles Republican platform
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 07:09
This summer has been filled with debate and controversy over the upcoming elections. Perhaps the most shocking event thus far was Todd Akin’s interview on a local St. Louis television station on Sunday, August 19. The U.S. representative for Missouri’s second congressional district, who won the Republican primary for a seat in the U.S. Senate, claimed that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. Not only does Akin’s phrase “legitimate rape” wrongly accuse victims of claiming false rapes, but it also displays a blatant unfamiliarity toward the issues he discusses. His ignorance is an example of how misinformed opinions are expressed to the general public; it is a warning that citizens should not accept a candidate’s word without question. Furthermore, Republicans should fear the damage Akin may have dealt to the party’s reputation, in addition to the party’s chance of convincing voters on the Republican anti-abortion statute.
Akin stated that pregnancy from rape is “really rare” because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down.” Akin’s knowledge on the topic of rape is completely outdated and false, which suggests that political candidates are ignorant towards greater issues. Such ignorance from policy makers constitutes a threat for U.S. citizens, as laws that affect our daily lives could be backed by misinformation.
Surprisingly, Akin’s claims were not completely unprecedented. During the early 1970s, an article was written by anti-abortionist and obstetrician-gynecologist Fred Mecklenburg. Mecklenburg stated that women were less likely to ovulate after trauma and were therefore less likely to become pregnant after rape. However his claims were quickly rejected due to a lack of any supporting scientific evidence. While the existence of this article shows Akin’s line of thinking has existed before, it still makes apparent his inability to keep up with issues he supports since contradictory evidence has been published almost 40 years ago.
Not only was Akin’s speech misinformed, but he very obviously attempted to tip-toe around a concrete stance on the issue of abortion. When asked if a woman pregnant from rape should have the option of abortion, Akin’s initial response was, “Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question?” It is frightening to know that a man who answers questions regarding one of our country’s main debates with such ambiguity and ignorance could win a Republican primary for a seat in the Senate.
Akin claims to have “misspoken,” yet his language clearly shows that he was not prepared to discuss the issue of abortion. This slip—if it even was a slip—may have dealt a great deal of damage to the Republican Party, exposing the flimsiness of the evidence used to support the pro-life debate. Perhaps even more alarming to the party, thanks to Akin, is the increased potential to lose the majority vote in the upcoming elections.
In order to try to counteract Akin’s actions, fellow Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan jumped at the chance to condemn him and ask him to withdraw from the Senate race. Still, Todd Akin refused to step down and will be running against Claire McCaskill in the general election, potentially throwing a wrench into the works for the Republicans. But for the country as a whole, this may be the least of worries if ignorant candidates continue to run and take office.
A candidate’s job is to inform citizens on current issues, as well as their opinions and a set of solutions. However it becomes impossible to keep this expectation when a key figure in the current elections fails to comprehend the issues he speaks about. Citizens should educate themselves but no matter how educated one is, it is impossible to be an expert on every issue. That is why this nation needs multiple strong, educated political figures to fill in the gaps and explain to citizens the issues at hand and what could be done about them. Akin’s words on abortion were only one slip caught by the public. Imagine how many uninformed opinions are preached to the public unknowingly, and furthermore, how many are accepted as truths and lead to the election of the candidates who express them.