There has been a whole lot of ignorance on the subject of rape and abortion thrown around by Republican lawmakers and candidates during this election cycle. Don't believe me? Just check this handy website, Days Without A GOP Rape Mention. They keep a nice tally of all the craziness being thrown around by Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Roger Rivard, and their friends. The latest to knock the count back to the bottom is John Koster, Republican nominee for the House of Representatives in Washington.
I have to be honest and say that I don't think Koster's comments were nearly as offensive as others we've heard in recent months. Speaking about the exceptions he would grant for abortion, Koster said that incest didn't deserve special mention because it was "so rare." Then he explained,
“On the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s the consequence of this crime, how does that make it better? You know what I mean?”
First of all, I'm pretty sure that those who have been in the position of getting pregnant through incest really don't care how rare their situation is. They'd just like to be able to handle that issue in whatever way they see fit without a bunch of people feeling like they have the right to share an opinion on a personal circumstance.
However, the "so rare" bit isn't what's getting Koster in trouble. It's his dismissive phrasing about "the rape thing" that has his opponent and others slamming him in the media. A representative for his Democratic challenger Suzan Delbane told Talking Points Memo, “Dismissing it as a ‘thing’ is an awfully casual way for him to talk about it, and I think it highlights how little he understands the ramifications and the seriousness of the issue. So that’s very problematic."
Personally, I don't really want to get into all the problems with Koster's statement. Sure, calling it "the rape thing" was thoughtless. Saying that a female choosing to have an abortion is "putting violence onto a woman's body" is a gross misstatement. And as always, referring to a fertilized egg as an "innocent child" is just a way that anti-choice politicians attempt to pull at heartstrings.
However, even with so much wrong about John Koster's statement, it reminded me of the silver lining to this weird cloud of Republican rape talk. All of these comments, no matter how wrong or bizarre or offensive, remind voters just how extreme and ignorant a lot of politicians are when it comes to women's health. Even more, these statements keep reproductive rights in the news and on voters' minds. That's a good thing, because Republican lawmakers have been determined to roll back women's rights throughout the past few years. This graph from the Guttmacher Institute shows the record number of abortion restrictions enacted in 2011. And that number is only set to grow in 2012.
The campaign ads might be all about jobs and the economy, but the actual legislative process for conservatives has spent a lot of talk dealing with women's reproductive health. And yet, without all of these extreme statements, the election cycle probably would not have mentioned abortion or rape at all. Everyone would have said, "We need to focus on the economy!" Of course, people forget that a woman's ability to choose if and when she has children is a huge economic factor for families.
I am still shocked that so many people hold such thoughtless views on rape and abortion, but I am slightly thankful that at least they're sharing those views to the public. I think it's important that voters realize the type of people they're voting into office. Because no matter what they run on, once elected, politicians get to go in and influence laws on every subject. Todd Akin sits on the House Science Committee, even though he doesn't understand female biology. Richard Mourdock could be a deciding vote in the Senate on bills surrounding women's rights and access to safe abortions.
It's hard to say that I'm happy these politicians are spreading ignorant beliefs. I really wish that they understood and respected women's bodies and choices, especially considering that they might be elected into positions of authority. However, it's better to know what we're getting into. I'd rather be aware before they ever hit the floor of Congress that my state representative doesn't think I have the right to possible medical treatments. I want to know that before he's voted into office.
I don't agree with John Koster's comments. I am happy that his possible constituents got to hear what he really feels about such an important issue. I hope that the voters in Washington remember that he just doesn't believe "the rape thing" constitutes allowing women to make their own reproductive choices when they hit the ballots next week.
The GOP can't seem to hit double-digits when it comes to days without a rape mention, but if that's what they believe, at least we know now.