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Sunday News Round-Up, Akin is Just an Amplifier Edition

August 26, 2012

Hey, I bet you heard something about the stupid thing Todd Akin said? And you realize that it’s not actually one misguided, poorly spoken guy, but really an example of the anti-woman extremism being held to the bosom (ha!) of the Republican party for votes, votes, votes? That this is not a news cycle problem, but a big picture, pervasive beliefs problem? Yeah. This round-up is about that. Settle in, pumpkins.

Great discussion of the issue overall:

  • Melissa Harris-Perry for The Nation in Paul Ryan Goddam! (the title is a take on the famous Nina Simone song):

    With Ryan and women’s health, there is no middle ground; there is only his moral judgment. And despite his avowed libertarianism on economic issues, on women’s health and rights Ryan is willing to use the full force of government to limit the freedom of dissenting citizens to exercise their opposing judgments.

  • Joe Klein at Swampland also looks at the history and concludes, In the end, Todd Akin is not an outlier. He is a symptom of the disease.
  • Margaret Carlson at The Telegraph looks over the history and notes the *real* problem Republicans are having with Akin’s remarks:

    What Akin apparently fails to understand is this: Just because colleagues like Ryan share his views, that doesn’t mean he can talk about them when there’s a presidential race going on – especially a race in which his party’s candidate is fudging his views on the subject in hopes of attracting moderates.

  • Garance Franke-Ruta at The Atlantic, in Romney Endorsed by, Praised Dr. John Willke, Leading Proponent of Idea That Rape Lowers Pregnancy Risk. Wilke is the either-ignorant-or-lying-about-biology doctor who claimed of rape:

    This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight. She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.

    The author points out how this kind of absurdity has been plenty cozied up to what are now prominent Republicans. The doctor’s statements are so unbelievably wrong and stupid, dude should be laughed out of America. If American, Republican politicians put any value on science, truth, or honesty. Heh.

  • Local Laura Creekmore, who is a fine and even-tempered person, writes of Being a Woman in 2012, and neatly divides the issue into religious and policy issues for those who don’t care about one or the other. She wraps up:

    I’m grateful to Akin for saying out loud what many women have been ignoring for years. I think an open discussion of the fact that many conservative elected officials would like to tell my doctor and me what kind of health care I can have is the best way to end that problem. I am just optimistic enough to believe that the American people really don’t want that. I just need some more single-issue voters.

  • Another local, Betsy Phillips, has a nice post at Pith in the Wind on the Republicans’ legitimate rape problem in a Tennessee Republican context:

    The list of Tennessee Representatives that believe that there’s rape rape and then something we don’t have to give a shit about? Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Scott DesJarlais, John Duncan, Stephen Fincher, Chuck Fleishmann and Phil Roe, judging by their co-sponsorship of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”

  • Eve Ensler writes:

    Clarification. You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.

  • Rachel Maddow has done an amazing job covering this all the past week – check out the videos online. Start anywhere from August 20 to present.
  • Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast, The GOP Had the Todd Akin ‘Legitimate Rape’ Debacle Coming:

    And, if the Democrats and women’s groups do their jobs, the average American will be informed that the man at the top of the ticket, whatever glib nonsense he sputters today, has long supported the idea of a “personhood” amendment to the Constitution, which could ban not just abortions but in-vitro fertilization and some types of birth control. How reactionary is this? The voters of Mississippi—Mississippi!—voted such an amendment down by 16 points last year once they had a chance to ruminate on its implications.

  • Akiba Solomon, in An Open Letter to Rep. Todd Akin From Women of Color Activists:

    Frankly, I’m relieved that you’ve revealed what you truly believe about how women’s bodies perform when they are being sexually violated. Thank you for admitting that you—a member of the House Science and Technology committee, an outspoken critic of Obamacare and a radical anti-choice lawmaker who has co-sponsored legislation that would redefine rape—have been relying on misogynist junk science.

  • And if you are still relying on an utter lack of biological understanding regarding rape and pregnancy, here’s what the main national organization of obstetricians and gynecologists had to say:

    Each year in the US, 10,000–15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest. An unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term. There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (ie, pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.

The kind-of-unbelievable:

  • Paul Ryan called the current furor a “distraction,” as though it’s a side issue that doesn’t actually affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetimes. He said, ” I don’t think they’re going to take the bait of all these distractions that the President is trying to throw at them,” as though it’s the President’s doing that they’re getting negative attention, rather than the explicitly stated views of actual Republicans, and the context they live in.

More historical context:

  • Here’s Paul Ryan voting against equal pay and anti-employment discrimination legislation, and voting for the unscientific fetal pain bill, the “make a criminal of your aunt if she helps you get from from Mississippi to Tennessee to access abortion bill, and against allowing military women stationed overseas from using their own money to get abortions.
  • In this previous post – Akin is not an Outlier – (start 4-5 paragraphs from the bottom), there’s Ryan supporting making a fertilized non-implanted egg a person with more rights than a fully grown woman, barring abortion except in cases of “forcible” rape, and the Republican President-appointed head of Health and Human Services repeatedly and deliberately misrepresenting a “conscience” clause he pushed that could have blocked access to both abortion and some forms of contraception.
  • Erika Christakis at Time, in Todd Akin Fallout: Rape, Abortion and the Dark History of Qualifying Violence Against Women:

    But the story doesn’t end with a bizarre, unscientific comment about how reproduction works. This embarrassing episode is only the latest in a long string of Republican rape canards that present a binary view of female sexuality in which some women are deemed worthy of legislative sympathy while others are not.

    She has examples. Go read them.

  • In political commentary at the LA Times:

    Mitt Romney was quick to condemn Akin…Like many of Romney’s positions, it is hard to square that stance with some of his past statements–in this case, that he would enthusiastically sign a bill to outlaw all abortions and that he supports a “personhood” amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would bestow full rights on a fertilized egg, thereby making abortions nearly impossible.

  • At the LA Times, Rep. Todd Akin’s ideas about rape hark back to the colonial era:

    In the 1980s, politicians and activists again embraced the idea expressed by Akin, that women who were raped generally could not conceive. They did so for the same reasons as Akin — to affect abortion legislation. But by the 1980s, such discussions were centuries behind the times. A generation later, politicians embracing this rhetoric remain willfully ignorant and dangerously powerful.

    This campaign season, let’s redefine the traditional “sex scandal” to include misinforming the public about sex and sexuality.

our bodies our votesThe Our Bodies Ourselves road trip, because after all that, you need a little bit of both action and fun:


[Now, I know there are a few of you who think these fellows are absolutely right in their anti-abortion extremism. I’m gonna refer you over to this previous post on why fertilized eggs should *not* be treated with the same rights as grown women, and this post on why I vote pro-choice.]

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