Akin’s rape comment reflects GOP policies

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

You've probably already heard about U.S. Representative Todd Akin's now-infamous statement made last week: "From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare," Akin told KTVI Fox News. "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

The criticism immediately rolled in — President Obama held a press conference the following day in which he criticized Akin, saying, "the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me."

But Democrats weren't the only one condemning Akin: Republican politicians were quick to distance themselves from him, and both the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and the conservative Super PAC American Crossroads have announced that they will no longer fund his campaign. Even vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan called Akin and asked him to drop out of Missouri's Senate race, according to Akin.

One might consider it a good thing that the GOP is trying to distance itself from Akin — after all, that's a sign that most Republican politicians disagree with his statements and are a little more reasonable and educated, right?

But when you look at the facts, it becomes pretty clear that Akin isn't an anomaly of the Republican party.

First is his completely misguided belief that the female body can apparently detect rape and prevent itself from becoming pregnant. Obviously, this is ludicrous — in fact, a 2003 study using data from the United States National Violence Against Women survey found that the rate at which women become pregnant from rape is twice the rate of pregnancy from consensual sexual acts.

Akin released an apology video a few days after his initial statement in which he admitted that pregnancy can occur from rape. But despite his correction, his statement revealed his apparent ignorance on how the female reproductive system works, a reoccurring theme with several conservatives.

After law student Sandra Fluke read a statement in May about the costs of birth control. Rush Limbaugh went on a now-infamous rant against her, calling her a "slut" and saying, "She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception." Offensiveness aside, his statement revealed that he apparently doesn't understand how birth control works; the amount of birth control pills a woman takes is completely independent of the amount of sex that she has.

Similarly, many conservatives, including Akin, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich, have spoken out against the morning-after pill, a form of birth control that they claim is equivalent to abortion. The science, though, simply does not support that. The morning-after pill doesn't prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, as conservatives claim; rather, the pill prevents an egg from being fertilized in the first place, meaning that no pregnancy occurs.

While these examples may not be as extreme as Akin's inane statement about the female body's ability to prevent pregnancy from rape, it shows that many of the male conservative politicians who seem so concerned with birth control and the female body ironically don't understand how they work.

Then there's Akin's phrase, "legitimate rape." Many conservatives have been quick to criticize Akin's word choice; when asked about Akin's statement, Ryan replied, "Rape is rape, period. End of story."

But this all begs the question: What would Akin consider "illegitimate" rape? He already answered that question last year when he co-sponsored the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which would have only allowed federal funds to be used to terminate pregnancies that were a result of "forcible" rape.

This essentially would have meant that, were you a 13-year-old victim of statutory rape or had you been drugged by your rapist before he assaulted you, your rape "wouldn't count." This wasn't the language of one extreme politician: The bill actually passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, although the phase "forcible rape" was later removed thanks to public outcry. Also worth noting: One of the bill's co-sponsors was none other than Ryan.

And despite Akin's apology, he still stands by his assertion that abortion should be banned even in cases of rape or incest. This may seem like an extreme stance to take on abortion, but rather than being a fringe belief, this stance has now become a central pillar of the Republican Party's beliefs. The newest iteration of the party's official platform, which will be formally unveiled this week at the Republican National Convention, calls for a constitutional amendment protecting the fetus' "fundamental individual right to life," but does not mention if exceptions should be allowed in cases of rape and incest.

So the real faux pas Akin made in the eyes of the Republican Party wasn't his beliefs — clearly his ideas are in line with those of many other conservatives. The real reason conservatives are tripping over themselves to put distance between them and Akin is that Akin's blunt delivery laid those conservative views bare, without dressing them up in the usual innocent-sounding political jargon.

The Republican Party can try to cover those views back up by releasing nice sound bites saying "rape is rape" and by begging Akin to drop out of the Senate race, but that doesn't change the fact that Akin's statement matches the Republican Party's actions. And once the majority of Americans realize that, their outrage won't be merely focused on one Senatorial candidate from Missouri.