In the 2012 election, a few anti-woman Republicans chose to escalate their rhetoric, and it didn’t work out very well. Todd Akin, now infamous for his shamelessly chimerical statements about “legitimate rape,” lost his seat to a Democrat in a predominately red state. Meanwhile, Richard Mourdock was burrowing headlong into his own Hoosier grave while defending rape and pregnancies from rape as something God wants to happen. One might be tempted to think Republicans had learned a lesson.
Alas, it’s simply not true. A brief perusal of recent headlines proves that Republicans have not learned a lesson. In fact, it appears they believe their problem was that they did not escalate enough. Earlier this month, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., went to great lengths to defend Akin and argued that there are indeed both legitimate and illegitimate rapes. Said the congressman:
“In Missouri, Todd Akin … was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, ‘Look, in a legitimate rape situation’ — and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: A scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that.”
It is troubling that the gentleman from Georgia doesn’t find it horrible. To begin with, he’s out of touch with the reality of rape. According to the Indian University of Pennsylvania (among many others), nearly all rape charges are essentially truthful. “FBI statistics show that only 3 percent of rape calls are false reports. This is the same false-report rate that is usual for other kinds of felonies.” Furthermore, a large number of rapes go unreported because the victims are afraid they will be accused of… well… precisely the kinds of things that Mr. Gingrey is suggesting.
The wrongness goes even deeper. False rape charges to protect the image of sexual purity for authoritarian parents? It gives every indication of being a made-up phenomenon. In fact, the very suggestion is remarkable in its paranoid depiction of young females. According to Gingrey and his ilk, these young women who are madly in love with their boyfriends — so madly in love that they willingly break their church-imposed vows of premarital celibacy — are so duplicitous and self-serving that they are willing to send their young lovers to jail to protect Mommy and Daddy’s feelings.
Not content with vilifying rape victims, Gingrey went on to let his god off the hook for tasking rapists with the sacred duty of fathering unwanted babies for Jesus to love and cherish. “Mourdock basically said ‘Look, if there is conception in the aftermath of a rape, that’s still a child, and it’s a child of God, essentially.’ Now, in Indiana, that cost him the election.”
Of course, he’s at least partially right. Many Christians do believe that God knows everything that’s going to happen, and is the author of everything that exists. If that is true, then he absolutely does want rape to happen, and does want rape victims impregnated. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be happening. Or, perhaps god is barking mad and creates things he doesn’t want and then gets mad about it. In any case, Mourdock and Gingrey are at least voicing a logically consistent position. If fetuses are people.
That last bit gets a little tricky. At this moment, a Colorado malpractice suit is being bounced around various courts, after lawyers for a Catholic doctor argued that fetuses are not people. Dr. Pelham Staples, of St. Thomas More Hospital, is defending himself against wrongful death malpractice in the case of two dead fetuses with this line of reasoning:
[T]he court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive.
There you have it. Fetuses are people, except when they might threaten the well-being of a man. In fact, even when they’re not people, Republicans would still protect them in the name of men’s rights. Enter Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), of New Mexico. If her pet bill makes it into law, women impregnated during a rape would be prohibited from having an abortion, on pain of prison. The charge? Tampering with evidence.
That’s right. Now fetuses are evidence. One might assume that the evidence would be mainly DNA, which would either implicate or exonerate the accused as far as the sex act itself. This seems rather daft, since the technology for taking DNA samples during or after an abortion is virtually foolproof. Thankfully, the congresswoman has rid us of this spurious reasoning, justifying her bill as an effort to “punish the person who commits incest or rape and then procures or facilitates an abortion to destroy the evidence of the crime.”
If that’s a little puzzling to you, it might be because it’s a completely unhinged argument. In order to punish rapists, she intends to jail rape victims who can’t stand the thought of giving birth to a child of rape. Despite the fact that DNA testing from an abortion at any stage of pregnancy would be perfectly sufficient as evidence, and indeed is perfectly sufficient in all 50 states, Ms. Brown has gone out of her way to impose unnecessary and ultimately immoral restrictions on women who have already been victimized once before.
When one surveys the political machinations of the Republican Right, it becomes crystal clear that at no point in their private deliberations are they genuinely concerned for the unborn. They are concerned with one thing, and one thing only, and that is the complete subjugation of women’s sexuality to the state. Whatever a fetus needs to be to punish women for sexual autonomy, that’s what a fetus will be. Despite their clear losses on moral issues in 2012, the gerrymander-entrenched Republicans continue their assault on the assaulted. They continue to twist any and every rule of law to their nefarious purposes, and they do it in plain sight, as if daring anyone to do something about it. One can only hope that come 2014, millions of sane voters will indeed do something about it.