From 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?
KING: 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 must 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. 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.