So a ton of people are reading the jaw-dropping, eye-opening, no-he-di’n’t statement that wannabe-Senator Todd Akins said in an interview over the weekend. It’s all over Facebook, Twitter, and just about every single news source in America has posted on it. (here’s the exchange with the interviewer, in case you missed it:
“If abortion could be considered in case of, say, a tubal pregnancy [which threatens the mother’s life], what about in the case of rape?” asked KTVI host Charles Jaco. “Should it be legal or not?”
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said, referring to conception following a rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
Argh. When will the people who want government to stop meddling in their lives fiscally take a lesson from their own playbook and stop trying to impose their values, beliefs, morality and religion on everyone else? Not to mention maybe doing some scientific research before gum-flapping complete bullshit rehetoric that suits your platform?
But really. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog over the years knows that I am a feminist, I wear that label proudly, and I support a society with reproductive rights as upheld by the Supreme Court of our great country. So you knew the whole thing would make me a bit…frothy. But this time, it was less about defending a woman’s right to choose, it was the giant concrete block of the word “Legitimate”.
Um, what is that? So many beliefs, attitudes and prejudices just rolled all over me with those two words. Because the opposite (“Illegitimate Rape”?) makes you think that sometimes rape isn’t…rape. Just…. roughhousing? Are we really going back to the infamous line from Claytie WIlliams, “If it [rape] is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it”? But in this case, it would seem that might be at cross-purposes with our magical built-in uterii’s uncanny ability to eliminate pregnancy if we’re really being raped.
Twenty-four years ago, I sat by a woman’s bedside in a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. Tubes left her body, transporting bloodstained urine, draining wounds from the stabbing she’d received days earlier from the hands of her rapist. Her will to survive made such an impression on me, that it was the first thing I thought of when I heard that quote from Akin. She had been raped, sodomized, stabbed and left for dead in shed near a cornfield. She begged her attacker to take her with him, because she had enough presence of mind to realize if he left her, she would die that night in the cold darkness. She promised him money, just take her to an ATM, she’d give him the number when they got there. And when he left the vehicle to get that cash, she dragged her body across the parking lot and got the attention of a truck driver, who rescued her from the nightmare that would now be forever in her memory, part of her Life Experience, the curse of her will to survive that she would also have to bear those memories for the rest of her days.
The crisis counselor murmured, “You are so, so brave. So brave.” I barely spoke, because I was the art major doing an internship, who wanted to help people with my sympathy, caring, and understanding. Be the change you wish to see in the world. I just never knew how terrible the world could be.
Doesn’t it always feel a little bit different, when you put a face, or a story, or a name on the unthinkable? That maybe our black & white thinking doesn’t always apply. That an extreme stance on anything means taking someone else’s rights away. I would never tell that woman we needed to review just how legitimate her rape was. Or that she’d have to carry that evil shit scum’s baby to term. Could you? Todd Akin thinks he could. And for that, I can’t forgive him any “mis-speaks”.