Legitimate rape

File:Blastocyst.JPGFrom this side of the Atlantic, Todd Akins appears to be a gift to the pro-choice side of the abortion argument. What he said:

“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. 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 on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Then Congressman Steve King weighs in:

REPORTER: You support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that would provide federal funding for abortions to a person that has been forcefully raped. But what if someone isn’t forcibly raped and for example, a 12-year-old who gets pregnant? Should she have to bring this baby to term?

File:Ultrasound image of a fetus.jpgKING: Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way and I’d be open to hearing discussion about that subject matter. Generally speaking it’s this: that there millions of abortions in this country every year. Millions of them are paid for at least in part by taxpayers. I think it’s immoral for us to compel conscientious objecting taxpayers to fund abortion through the federal government, or any other government for that matter. So that’s my stand. And if there are exceptions there, then bring me those exceptions let’s talk about it. In the meantime it’s wrong for us to compel pro-life people to pay taxes to fund abortion.

Mr King’s argument interests me, because I think genuinely pro-life people should not be compelled to pay taxes towards military spending, to buy tools to kill people, or, for that matter, to pay for executions. In the early 19th century, when British local militias were paid for out of local taxes (“rates”), Quakers corporately decided not to pay the military rate. Generally, politicians agree that tax is apportioned by government, not directly by citizens, and think that the right to opt out is unworkable.

Akins’ outburst appears to be a gift because he is utterly repulsive, so that even Mr Romney had to denounce him. And yet he is a member of Congress, so File:Sucking his thumb and waving.jpgmust have some political skill: he must have thought such opinions would endear him to his electorate, rather than disgust them. It is terrifying that people might agree with such views.

Even if by “legitimate rape” Akins meant “rape as defined in law” rather than “rape which the law allows”, the proper meaning of the words, it is disturbing: it is as if he says that people bandy about the word “rape”, and so its use needs to be restricted.

No abortion, ever, is his desire. Rape victims are not an argument against this, because they are a tiny proportion of the abortions carried out in the US. Oddly enough I find something there to agree with him. The fact that women who have been raped need abortions is not a useful argument on the pro-choice side, just as the disgust I feel at partial-birth abortion is not an argument on the anti-abortion side. Partial birth abortions were 0.17% of US terminations in 2000. The argument is in the middle. Not a woman who will die if her foetus is not aborted, not a woman who was raped, and not a woman who wants to destroy a foetus which might survive if born.File:3dultrasound 20 weeks.jpg The real argument is about a woman who is twelve weeks gone and feels that she will be unable to care for a child, or to give one up if it is born. Such a case represents a far higher proportion of terminations than intact dilation and extraction on the one hand, or rape victims on the other.

It is only a tiny amount of agreement. Mr Akins has an absolute principled stand, no abortions, never, not nohow. Such a simple principled stand leads to the ritual humiliation of the vaginal probe, as legislators desperately try to roll back abortions. Whereas I want to consider the cases which actually happen, and have compassion on all the human beings involved.

I think an anti-abortion stance fails to have that compassion. It judges the woman. It says she has done a bad thing- whether that is unprotected sex, or sex while not in a loving relationship- and so should suffer the consequences. I would keep the law out of the matter entirely, and provide abortion on demand. I trust mothers not to abort unless it is necessary.

18 thoughts on “Legitimate rape

  1. abortion is one of the few issues that I have mixed views on, and can see arguements on noth sides of the fence. I do see however that the women who have to take the decision are in agony having to decide, and few take it lightly


  2. Dear Clare

    Never scared to tackle difficult subjects! And abortion is one of these issues that shows no signs of running out of steam, not never, not knowhow.

    Emotive, involving and personal, the argument that no women should ever be allowed an abortion (even in cases of “legitimate rape”, whatever that means. Is there such a thing? You can force yourself on a woman or man if they agree? When is forced sex not rape? When the victim consents!) is propounded mostly by men, who seem to want to have their cake and eat it. Sewing your oats is expected of men, guarding virginity is expected of women. But if a woman is the victim of a violent sexual assault, she has to bear the consequences? There are so many double standards here, it makes my head spin.

    It would be less complex to administer a military spending opt out, than reason with those who insist on the sanctity of life. What about the sanctity of the living? What about their rights? Is the “pro life” lobby not just plain old fashioned mysogyny dressed up to look respectable?


    • In fairness, I think by “legitimate rape” he meant rape which is unlawful, rather than lawful- he seems to be saying that illegal rape is a subset of that which is called “rape” in ordinary speech, which is disturbing. I do not want to mock his misspeaking too much. Do not mock the man for his lack of education and his stupidity, mock him for his views.

      He takes a principled stance- there are campaigns for “Personhood”, a blastocyst is seen as a person with rights- wholly divorced from messy reality. In reality, there is a woman crying out I need an abortion, I cannot have this child and Mr Akins makes sure she cannot get anywhere near him.

      I had a look at “Conservative Home”, an article on how support for equal marriage means a net gain in votes for Tories, and some of the comments were very passionate. One said what is the point of gaining votes if you lose the activists who get out the vote? She was so upset that her world is changing. Men like Akins tap into her fear response. He is a wicked man.


  3. I love this:
    “I think genuinely pro-life people should not be compelled to pay taxes towards military spending, to buy tools to kill people, or, for that matter, to pay for executions.”

    I actually think Akin thinks that some women who claim rape weren’t actually raped… they wanted it. Yes, I think there is much mysogyny among our elected officials… 😦


    • Thank you.

      Akin (?) tries to limit and constrict access to terminations. He understands enough to realise that sane people believe rape victims should be allowed abortion- women so dissociated from their bodies that they cannot bear to be touched should not have to cope with pregnancy- and he wants to pare away, limit even that.

      Facebook meme: “There’s one thing women’s bodies can shut down. It’s called the Republican party. Vote this November as if your life and rights depended on it. Because they do.”


  4. Sorry for banging on about this, but perhaps you might help me to understand and explain what the man means by “legitimate” rape, being rape that the law allows as opposed to the unlawful kind. I always understood that rape is a crime of violence, by definition, and I cannot conceive of a crime of violence that is lawful……

    My, how times have changed. Maybe not so much, after all. It was only fairly recently that a man could be convicted of raping his wife. Now, maybe I misunderstood the guy, but is he suggesting that rape can be lawful?

    Poor, deluded man. Maybe in his next life he will be a rape victim. To learn empathy and all that. He better be careful… 😦


  5. OH! Yes, I think I understand.

    According to him, “legitimate rape” means, when a woman is telling the truth and she has been raped. Illegitimate rape, then, would be when a victim was not raped, so she must have been lying. And he seems – god help us – to suggest that in cases of rape, the body would shut down and there would be no pregnancy. So, if there is a pregnancy, the woman must have been imagining things.

    How convenient for him. Does he really think that God has nothing better to do, than protect men from the consequences of their violence against others? Does he think that God is a mysogynist too? Good grief. :((


    • [Irony alert! Irony alert!] Precisely. “Legitimate rape” is that almost unheard-of, extremely rare situation where a man sexually assaults a woman and she did not lead him on by where she was, or what she was wearing, or what she said, (no means yes), and she did not want it. Really. The Bible has it about right, if he married her, her father’s honour would be satisfied.


  6. Sounds a bit like the extreme to me….. but then, maybe I am imagining things too. This reminds me just a little bit of those so-called honour killings in which, if a woman is raped, it is her fault, and she must be killed to protect the honour of her family. Not so far flung from that, is it?

    What did women do, to deserve such hatred?


  7. First – wow! great discussion. I’ll skip the “legitimate rape” portion because you ladies have already covered everything I would have said and said it better; Akins is a prime example of right-wing Christian zealots in the American Republican party who scare the bejusus out of me.

    Second, your comment “genuinely pro-life people should not be compelled to pay taxes towards military spending, to buy tools to kill people, or, for that matter, to pay for executions” was really intriguing. No, an opt-out wouldn’t really be workable, and honestly I’m not sure I’d be in favor of the idea, but what stikes me is that pro-life in America is pretty much synonymous with anti-abotion and doesn’t usually take on a meaning regarding “life” beyond the womb. In fact, the very same people who are pro-life are generally also big on military spending, pro-death penalty, and you can “pry their guns from their cold, dead hands.” So if “pro-lifers” had the choice to opt-out of taxes on federally funded abortions, but that also meant opting-out of funding the military and prisons/executions, hmmm, what an interesting quandry that might pose…


    • Welcome, Questrix! I love your blog, and what you explore there.

      I do not think non-payment of military taxes is possible, as all taxes go into a general fund- but I do object to the UK government, with the agreement of three main parties, proposing to spend £100 bn on a new set of nuclear submarines with ICBMs. If Mr Cameron is prepared actually to launch them- without which, deterrence has no meaning- I do not want him as Prime Minister.

      I understand Paul Ryan worked on the same anti-abortion bill as the misspeaking Todd. Nadine Dorries has nutty views on abortion, and is an MP in the governing party, but the leadership does not share those views. Reproductive rights becomes an issue to decide the vote, there. I read that Mr Romney, in a desperate attempt to retain some women voters, said his administration would help women entrepreneurs. Really? He would have a scheme which supported female entrepreneurs but not males, when the only difference was sex? The man is drivelling.


  8. Akin was probably thinking of Leviticus, in which one of the Proper grounds for marriage is rape. Raping a woman and marrying her was considered a “legitimate” rape and a legitimate marriage. But then the Old Testament also condones slaughtering women and children, and not leaving stone standing upon stone. Funny how they never talk against Usury, though, which is prohibited but which is the basis of our entire bankster-run economy.


    • Welcome, Jim. Thank you for commenting. Modern America condones slaughtering women and children, though only as “collateral damage” in “surgical strikes”. It is seen as regrettable but necessary. But I do not think your interpretation of “legitimate rape” makes sense in context. Akin was saying something like, if she really did not want it, her body could “shut it down”. And I have not heard of an Evangelical suggesting that rape victims should marry their attackers.

      I think the problem with capitalism is that the best returns are no longer made from employing people, but from destroying jobs, and making those workers who continue work harder under threat of unemployment.


  9. Just found this, it’s excellent! Like many of the other comments, I particularly like the line, “genuinely pro-life people should not be compelled to pay taxes towards military spending, to buy tools to kill people, or, for that matter, to pay for executions”. It’s a sure thing that in the USA most of the pro-lifers are happy to stand by capital punishment and their country’s unnecessary military interventions.

    When I’m discussing this, I always stick to the fact that making abortion illegal just leads to more misery because desperate women always seek out a way to end the pregnancy. But you make a convincing argument from lots of other angles.


    • I was delighted that Akin was not re-elected, that his comments were a genuine miscalculation rather than an encouragement to his supporters. Or that, when he reveals principles so perverted, even his former voters are put off.

      I believe in life between birth and death, not just before birth and after death. (Note that “We believe in life before death” is a Christian Aid slogan.)


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