Todd Akin, Legitimate Rape and the Presidential Race

This article has been published on The GW Post

The republican stance on abortions is well known but when a Congressman makes really controversial comments on that issue just a couple of months before the presidential elections, the only sure thing is that it will create a media buzz not only in the USA but around the world. That was the case with Todd Akin, a republican U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 2nd congressional district, serving since 2001 and a congress candidate for this year’s elections. When asked about his view on abortions on a state television show Todd Akin did not say anything different from what everyone expected; his stance is clearly against contraceptive methods, what has caused so much controversy though was what he said about abortions in case of rape: “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”


However, it was not the first time that such comments were made.  Stephen Friend, a former Representative in the Pennsylvania Legislature representing Delaware County from 1976 until 1993, famously said that when a woman is raped the odds of getting pregnant are “one in millions and millions and millions” since “the traumatic experience of rape causes a woman to “secrete a certain secretion” that tends to kill sperm.” More recently, Rick Santorum when asked whether he would let his daughter to have an abortion if she were to get pregnant after rape and it was her will to have an abortion; he said that he wouldn’t let her because the baby would be God’s gift. It is obvious that even some very high profile politicians have a very strict stance on abortions, why so much attention on Akin’s comments then? The answer to that is very simple; it is because of the elections.

For those who have been following this year’s primary elections, it has been obvious that a lot of attention has been given on women’s issues and the debate on women’s health care has been very high on the agenda of all candidates, all of whom, without exception, have declared their opposition. On the other hand, the Democratic Party and Obama’s campaign gave a lot of emphasis on the republican opposition making the ‘republican war on women’ one of their main arguments against Mitt Romney. So it is not surprising that Todd Akin’s comments gave a chance to Obama’s campaign to emphasise even more women on the one hand, and found Romney’s campaign unprepared for such a controversy on the other.

Someone may ask: in what ways can these comments affect the presidential race? Well it is pretty much clear that the republicans will lose even more on women voters. Mitt Romney knows that the focus on the contraception debate does not favour his campaign. This issue is probably the only one that Romney cannot compete against Obama. Their stance on women’s has been very negative from the very beginning. Their constant opposition on the new health care plan that gives women more options as far as contraceptive methods are concerned will probably cost them important support from unprivileged women voters. Not only did Akin’s comments revive the ‘war on women’ theme of the primary elections but they have also negated every effort that Romney’s campaign has made to take the attention off the abortion debate. As soon as Todd Akins comments gained such a big media attention, Mitt Romney, knowing that the whole issue would affect his presidential race, urged him to resign, something that Akin rejected.

Todd Akin’s comments prove that people with no knowledge of basic facts and absolutely no compassion of sensitive social issues are the ones that have high governmental positions and influence the US policies and that ultimately affect people’s lives. In addition, it is more than certain that if Akin’s comments were made during another period would not have drawn so much media attention, since as aforementioned similar comments were made before. The Democratic Party and the Obama campaign are the ones that will ultimately gain from these comments since they will not let them to be forgotten, at least until the elections. Finally, assomeone commented on a public forum, “I am so perturbed by this as it is a reminder of how definitional issues around sexual violence are still so problematic and that there is an ongoing problem in according legitimacy to women’s accounts of violence committed against them”. 

*Image source : No copyright violation intended

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