Todd Akin almost certainly did not intend to, but in one brief explanation, the Missouri lawmaker clarified for most of the nation some of the thinking that undergirds the extreme positions on abortion conservatives have staked in Congress and many state legislatures.
Attempting to explain why he would make no exceptions even in the case of a pregnancy resulting from rape, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate said such pregnancies are rare because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Akin, who sits on the House Committee on Science (!), Space and Technology, did not say what an illegitimate rape might be or how the female body responds under that circumstance. Such is the obtuse logic and the ignorance of reproductive biology on the part of a lawmaker who is in a position to write laws that affect the lives of women.
Akin has refused to drop out of the race, conceding, in a campaign ad on Tuesday, only that he “used the wrong words in a wrong way.” Poor word choice hardly captures the controversy he has highlighted so dramatically (and so inconveniently for a Republican Party trying to allay women’s concerns). Seeing the potential damage, the big guns of the party, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, have rallied to contain the fallout, distancing themselves from the offensive remarks.
But the bigger offense is the aggressive effort to curtail, if not eliminate, access to legal abortion, a position Akin shares with the Republican Party and its presidential ticket. According to a CNN report, the draft of the party’s platform this year includes a federal ban that makes no exceptions for rape or incest victims. Republican legislatures across the country have pushed relentlessly for “viability” bills, to bar abortions for pregnancies beyond 20 weeks; “personhood” bills, to recognize fertilized eggs as persons; and “heartbeat” bills to bar abortions the moment a heartbeat is detected.
In Congress, Ryan, an advocate of “personhood” legislation, also has sought legislation to restrict federal funding for abortion only to instances of “forcible rape.” If Akin is bucking the pressure to step aside, it may be because he is much in sync with his party on abortion rights.