Recent comments made by Senate hopeful Todd Akin in Missouri have ignited a veritable firestorm of anger from just about all corners of the political spectrum. Specifically, people have been furious with the notion that women who are “legitimately raped”, according to Rep. Akin, R-Mo., are somehow able to prevent themselves from getting pregnant.
The idea being — if his line of logic is followed — that women who become pregnant after being raped were not actually raped, and should therefore not be permitted to undergo an abortion.
Pro-choice and women’s rights advocates are understandably outraged by this. Democrats are also extremely vocal on this point; not only at the gross insensitivity of the statement, but also because it gives them an opportunity to try and paint their opponents as supportive of Rep. Akin’s comments and view on the subject of rape.
Republicans, to their credit, have roundly attacked Akin’s comment and have called on him to drop out of the race for the Senate. Just about everyone on the Republican side has been heard on this, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan — again to their credit.
However, this is certainly not the first time that certain, more radical, pro-life advocates have attempted to redefine the crime of rape. It is not the view of all pro-lifers and their condemnation of Akin’s comments is a testament to that fact. Be that as it may, the comments made by Akin were not the most egregious attempts to redefine the definition of rape.
The term “forcible rape” was included in a recent national personhood amendment that was almost brought to the floor of Congress. The definition “forcible rape” seemed to indicate at the time that some in the pro-life movement believed that there are two different kinds of rape, one that is done by force and one that is not. As if a man forcing a woman to have sex with him when she has refused to do so could be anything but forcible.
Remember Ken Buck? The district attorney from Weld County that tried and failed to unseat Sen. Michael Bennet? He had a similar problem, both in that he fully supported the 2010 version of the Colorado Personhood Amendment –– which was an attempt to give a fertilized egg the designation “personhood” –– and his own refusal to prosecute a rape case in Weld County.
His refusal to prosecute was based on the grounds that he believed that a jury would perceive the victim as suffering from “buyer’s remorse.” As if the woman in question had wanted the man in question to rape her and would seek an abortion only because she was not interested in getting pregnant.
The idea of redefining a crime is something that should not sit well with people. After all, it would sound insensitive to the point of outrage to suggest that a murder victim was not “legitimately murdered.” The same goes for suggesting that someone whose home was robbed was suffering “buyer’s remorse.”
A personal opinion on the issue of abortion, especially a man’s opinion on abortion, should not be a reason to treat rape as a trivial experience, or as a part of a political agenda. Rape is a crime and victims of it deserve justice –– not humiliation or dismissal at the hands of a politician.
You would not tell a murder victim’s family that their loved one was not murdered legitimately. You would not tell someone who has been beaten to within an inch of their life that they were asking for it. You should not tell a woman who has been raped that the crime against her was not legitimate, or not forceful, or that if she wants an abortion that she is suffering from buyer’s remorse.
If sex is not consensual, then it is rape. Period. The women of the U.S. deserve better from their elected officials and from their fellow citizens. That they do not receive better from this country is a national disgrace.
Caleb Hendrich is a senior political science major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.