ABC News reported that Rep. Todd Akin would not be withdrawing from the Missouri Senate race following his disturbing comments related to rape and pregnancy. What else can he really do at this point?
Akin told St. Louis Fox affiliate KTVI that "legitimate rape" typically does not result in pregnancy because the female body has ways of "shutting all that down" when a woman is really being raped (as opposed to when she is lying about being raped or when she enjoys being raped?), it seemed to many to reveal not just a political gaffe of seemingly epic proportions. Rather, it exposed a confirmed belief of a public servant. It certainly raised some questions on just how particularly bright Akin is. Obviously there is no real IQ test for holding public office, and clearly the bar is fairly low in some cases, but that level of reasoning and shallow understanding of basic "birds and bees" has many wondering which rock Akin grew up under, and is it even located on this planet?
Most sixth graders know better than that these days, and nearly all kids have to learn fairly comprehensive sex education by the time they reach high school.
In our media-intensive times, certain gaffes are forgivable. Others fall into a sinking public opinion quicksand. Joe Biden was sinking in just such quicksand in the days before Akin stole the gaffe spotlight. Perhaps Biden may be relieved that his gaffe will not get the airtime it likely would have been given when his recent "chains" remark was quickly overshadowed by Akin's recent remarks.
Following a rather frequent stream of Mitt Romney gaffes, including his recent comparison of slower Palestinian economic growth versus the strong rate of Israel, it was surprising that others stuffed their feet into their mouths in front of cameras so soon.
If Akin had said, "the moon is made of cheese," people might be able to see some humor in it, and perhaps only mildly worry that he may be at all serious. Even so, he wasn't running for science czar, and perhaps voters could have overlooked that. If he had said, "God loves homosexuals," the gaffe may have inadvertently shown his religious or personal opinion on a sensitive topic, but then people might be able to weigh his opinion about the rightness and wrongness of sexual diversity and then make their own choices about whether to vote for him or not.
But a gaffe so blatantly stupid as the one he made on Fox affiliate KTVI cannot be laughed at, factored or forgiven.
Here's why: Women have forever carried the burden of unwanted pregnancy and in many millions of cases, the responsibility for unwanted children. Due to one's moral guidance, or, due to the strictures of one's religion forbidding the early termination of a pregnancy, or even due to lack of resources, women have always lost a lot in the event of rape and subsequent pregnancy. They have lost freedom for starters. They have lost premium wages and upward economic mobility. They have often lost their husbands who could not deal with their personal violation and lack interest in caring for another man's child. They've lost countless opportunities, including travel. They have lost the luxury of spending their time to be of service to other important causes they care deeply about. They have lost family and community support and often their previous social standing. They have lost education, particularly if the victim is young. They have often lost or delayed any career aspirations.
They have lost their sense of physical and psychological security.
They have lost their innocence, their regular lives and they have lost their dreams.
Worse, they are lost to a system that placed a premium on female virginity, one that blames and one that limits support.
Akin's apology is appropriate and welcome but many will conclude it is not sufficient. Perhaps in the upcoming election, the fine modern women of Missouri will exercise their nineteenth amendment power and vote for a Senator better aware of their anatomies.
But why in 2012 did Mr. Akin have such a limited and unique view of rape and pregnancy? In his Fox interview, he said that based on what he knew from listening to various doctors on the subject of rape that he was led to believe that the female body could "shut that whole thing down," -- referring to conception. That is fairly hard to believe because one would like to believe that those among us with licenses to practice medicine have a solid grasp on human reproduction.
Perhaps it was not so much doctors but preachers that influenced Akin, who earned a master's degree in Divinity from a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) seminary in 1973. The PCA is not the largest group of mainstream protestant Presbyterianism in the U.S. PCA is an evangelical denomination that adheres to the Reformed tradition. The church claims to be "faithful to the scriptures, true to the Reformed faith and obedient to the Great Commission." The PCA brand of Presbyterianism does not support choice under almost any circumstance, including rape. While the larger Presbyterian Church USA has been ordaining women for over 50 years, the PCA still teaches that women do not belong in ordained leadership positions.
Most modern Presbyterians enjoy a reputation as being some of our country's finest people. We count among them many U.S. Presidents including Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan (who is also counted by some as Disciples of Christ).
Certainly many Presbyterians these days may either follow their church teachings when it comes to issues of sexuality, or they may rely on their family's standards or their own personal reasoning to arrive at the conclusion that abortion is wrong. Others may arrive at the position that choice is right.
But if rape, unwanted pregnancy and sanctity of life are the central issues here, based on what is actually in the Bible, rape is sometimes allowed and sanctity of life is rather scarce at many times, as evidenced in more than thirteen hundred instances of ruthless killing of men, women and children.
And, having earned a graduate degree at a scriptural-based divinity school, my guess is that Mr. Akin probably knows exactly what the Bible says about rape, most likely none of which is taught in any modern American Sunday School of any denomination these days.
Parents who want to raise daughters with a sense of gender equality and sons who will grow to respect women will likely not want their children to stumble upon these verses: Judges 21:10-24, in which it is OK for men to hide out on the side of the road, then kidnap and rape women; Numbers 31:7-18, in which Moses approves keeping the virgin girls for themselves to rape; Deuteronomy 22:28-29 in which the punishment for raping a woman is that the man has to marry her and may never divorce, (yes, the victim appears to be punished twice); Deuteronomy 22:23-24, in which the rape victim should be stoned to death for not crying out for help; Deuteronomy 21:10-14, in which it is OK to kidnap and rape a woman; Judges 5:30, in which each man should get a woman or two as "spoils" of war; Zechariah 14:1-2, in which women get ravished; or Exodus 21:7-11, in which women are sex slaves.
That verses such as these are in our Bible, hidden in plain sight, right under our noses, is pretty surprising to many.
Isn't it downright reprehensible that rape victims in these modern United States of America have to bring their attackers to justice in courts of law by swearing in on an antiquated version of the Bible that promotes that much rape?
What Todd Akin said, and particularly how he said it, seems to be what he honestly believes, not a gaffe, just a real lens into his mindset. Saying he "misspoke" is weak and deceptive when people are looking for accountability and honesty.
Stepping aside or not, perhaps by now Todd Akin has updated his views on rape and pregnancy, perhaps even the justification for abortion. Will the good voters of Missouri share their own beliefs that in this day and age they require a leader who is a bit more "2012" when it comes to their rights?