Thursday, August 23, 2012

'Legitimate' Sh!tstorm

It was immediately apparent to me that the aspiring senator Todd Akin was attempting to make three points:

  • Rape induced preganacy is a small percentage of pregnancies even weighted for the frequency of rape;

  • they are a small percentage of induced abortions; and

  • forcible rape is not the same thing as stat rape, or morning-after regret.

Of these, only the first appears to be false, and candidly, I didn't know it was false until researching this post. I had heard the rape-seldom-causes-pregnancy factoid 25 years ago and probably from the same place Akin did. I had never heard it contested, and never thought to contest it myself. While I once was quite passionate on the subject of abortion, my interest waned as I realized how thoroughly gamed out the issue had become, and I no longer regard a Republican politician's prolife protestations to be worth especially much, in and of themselves. But for Akin, a genuine partisan on the issue, to be so mis-informed in the age of the internet speaks ill of him.

As does his artlessness:

First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The initial reaction from his oppoents was to harp on "legitimate", which indicates that they didn't really know the stats either. It was only later that jokes about "sperm goalies" started up.

As Ann Coulter put it:

Akin wasn’t asked some out of the blue question no Republican candidate has ever been asked: He was asked the most jejune, obvious question every Republican is asked in any race for any office. How can a Republican not have an answer for: “What about abortion in the case of rape and incest?”

The point I believe Akin was ultimately driving at was that this is a teeny-tiny percentage of all abortions, so why are we spending all our time taking about it? How about saying: “Yes, it’s still a life, but more people are killed in drive-by shootings in Chicago every year. You give us the 2 million abortions that aren’t a result of rape and incest and we’ll give you the few thousand that are.”

Instead, Akin rambled about “legitimate rape” – violating an ironclad rule of politicians that the word “legitimate” should never appear within 15 yards of the word “rape.” And he talked about the medical possibility of becoming pregnant from a single traumatizing rape.

He’s not a talk radio host. He’s not sitting around shooting the breeze in a college dorm room. This is a politician who should have a clear, nonthreatening answer at the ready for the most cliched question in the MSM’s playbook.

Well said. But remember this incident, those of you with IQ above 115, who wonder why candidates always sound perfectly scripted and always spout the same talking points no matter what the spin of the question. That's the only kind of answer we seem to tolerate.

1 comment:

Elusive Wapiti said...

"That's the only kind of answer we seem to tolerate."

Agreed. No thinking allowed here. Given the negative reaction from both "war on women" Democrats and scared Republicans, little wonder that pols only offer pabulum in response to social wedge issue questions.

A separate source for the rape-pregnancy rate pegs it at 5%, close to the 6% rate cited in the Beeb article you linked. Not quite rare, but highly unlikely.

Rolled into that rape-pregnancy rate are such variables as what sort of rape it was, which gets us to the "legitimate" portion of his statement.

Akin appears to be distinguishing between rape-rape and other forms of sex pulled in under the rape umbrella. In this he violated feminist orthodoxy that takes a firm stand against rape, yet widens the colloquial definition of rape so far as to make qualifiers like "legitimate" necessary.

As a result, the true rate of pregnancy due to rape-rape needs to be teased out from the other kinds of "rape" like morning-after-regret rape and "tequila-made-my-clothes-fall-off" rape to have any precise meaning here.

I suspect that once one does so, the true rate of pregnancy due to rape-rape will fall, perhaps approximating that of the rate of pregnancy due to one-night stands (3% from the BBC article).

Last, he set himself up for "sperm goalie" ridicule. This gaffe, added to his bucking the feminist orthodoxy, just makes him look ignorant.