This week, the deadline passed for Representative Todd Akin to pull himself out of the race for Claire McCaskill‘s Senate seat. After Akin’s horrible comments about rape earlier in the summer, it seemed like everyone is his party was calling for Akin to bow out. He was chastised by everyone from Presidential nominee Mitt Romney to National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman, Sen. John Cornyn. He even got a personal phone call from his former buddy and legislative partner, Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. But Akin stood his ground, stayed in the race, and now he’s experiencing renewed support from the party that was attempting to cast him out. Here’s why that should matter to women.
Through the circus resulted after Akin’s original comments, many have forgotten just how bizarre and misinformed the idea espoused by the Senate candidate really was. The statement has been brushed aside as a simple gaffe or a political misstep. The Republican party responded so quickly and Akin apologized so profusely that people were willing to accept that this was all just a big misunderstanding.
But if you look at his actual statements, I think it’s safe to say that Todd Akin really doesn’t understand women’s bodies and he fails to empathize or care about rape victims on any level. This man didn’t just get one comment about rape wrong. He has a history of failure when it comes to understanding or supporting rape.
Long before the original comment sparked a national firestorm, Todd Akin had demonstrated his inability to comprehend rape. In 1991 when he was still a state legislator, Akin initially raised concerns about a law making marital rape illegal, saying that women might claim marital rape in a messy divorce “as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband.” He later voted to approve the bill, but already he showed a distrust of women. His victim reaction was to doubt and question victims, to delegitimize them.
Then, there was the legislation proposed by Paul Ryan and Todd Akin that would change the definition of rape in a bill that protects a woman’s right to an abortion after rape or incest. The bill narrowed the exception to only “forcible rape,” in a way brushing aside statutory or date rape, as if these crimes were not as serious or important, were not as much of a violation.
This was all before the Congressman said that “legitimate rape” can’t result in pregnancy. His idea wasn’t a gaffe, it’s an idea that’s based on the opinion of a controversial conservative doctor. It’s an idea that I really think Todd Akin believed. He thought that women’s bodies could not get pregnant if they had been raped. Whether he still thinks that now or not, I’m not quite sure.
Even in his apologies, Todd Akin found ways to disparage and insult rape victims. He said that his “legitimate rape” statement was meant to separate the real rape victims from the fakers. Again, he shows that his first reaction is to doubt the victims. That’s a dangerous tendency for a man who is supposed to be representing the entire population in the Senate. Presumably, there are rape victims living in Missouri. And Todd Akin’s gut reaction is not to believe them.
Almost more concerning than Akin’s insistence on staying in the race is the fact that the Republican party is suddenly willing to welcome him back. After admirably condemning his remarks, it seems like the GOP assumes our country has an extremely short memory. The National Party has agreed to start spending money advertising Akin again, a sign that the GOP supports his candidacy.
Yesterday, Rick Santorum and Senator Jim DeMint endorsed Akin in his race. True, both Republicans are extremely conservative, but they’re also very high profile. “Todd Akin is a principled conservative who is committed to winning and fighting for freedom in the U.S. Senate,” they said in a joint statement.
The Republican party is officially backing a man who doesn’t understand how the female body works and who doesn’t seem to care about rape victims at all. He has shown that not only does he personally not empathize with victims of sexual assault, he’s willing to pass legislation to make their lives more difficult. To have a national party support and fund a candidate like this should send a message to all women, especially those who have been or know a rape survivor.