Posted on | August 21, 2012 | 30 Comments
In a Twitter exchange with Steve Ertelt of Lifenews.com — who has called on Todd Akin to step aside — I made this point:
There is a price to be paid for pandering and dumbing down: You attract stupid voters — and stupid candidates.
There are people who claim that Todd Akin is not irremediably stupid. OK, fine. His assertion that women have a biological defense against becoming pregnant as a result of forcible rape does have advocates, however controversial:
Dr. John C. Willke, a general practitioner with obstetric training and a former president of the National Right to Life Committee, was an early proponent of this view, articulating it in a book originally published in 1985 and again in a 1999 article. He reiterated it in an interview Monday.
“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight,” Dr. Willke said of a woman being raped, adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”
Leading experts on reproductive health, however, dismissed this logic.
“There are no words for this — it is just nuts,” said Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, said, that “to suggest that there’s some biological reason why women couldn’t get pregnant during a rape is absurd.”
What scientific evidence could there be — how could anyone possibly demonstrate in a study — the idea that “spastic” fallopian tubes somehow hinder fertilization in a woman who has been raped? Stipulating that this theory is something within the realm of possibility (however remotely), where is the evidence?
But never mind that: Even stipulating that Dr. Willke’s theory of “spastic” fallopian tubes is valid, all he asserts is that fertilization is “less likely” in rape than in consensual sex, so that pregnancy as a result of rape is still possible. Does Dr. Willke have any data to quantify this factor? Can we say that the spastic-tube factor reduces the likelihood of pregnancy by 15%? Or 20% or 30%?
The point is obvious enough: Even if this effect (the existence of which we stipulate for the sake of argument) resulted in a 50% or 60% reduction of the risk of rape causing pregnancy, there would still be many hundreds of such pregnancies each year in a nation where, according to FBI statistics, nearly 85,000 forcible rapes were reported to law enforcement in 2010.
Perhaps there are scientific studies on this spastic-tube factor of which I am unaware or, as seems rather more likely, Harvard’s Dr. Greene is correct in dismissing it as “just nuts.”
Whatever. Dr. Willke’s theory is controversial at best, laughably implausible at worst, and basicaly irrelevant to the argument over abortion either way. So when Todd Akin brings up this theory in an interview about his Missouri Senate race, he is being stupid. And then, when this results in a political firestorm, Akin doubles down on stupid:
Arguing that he misplaced the word “legitimate,” Akin explained — during a follow up interview with Dana Loesch — that he meant to argue that women sometimes lie about being raped:
AKIN: You know, Dr. Willke has just released a statement and part of his letter, I think he just stated it very clearly. He said, of course Akin never used the word legitimate to refer to the rapist, but to false claims like those made in Roe v. Wade and I think that simplifies it….. There isn’t any legitimate rapist…. [I was] making the point that there were people who use false claims, like those that basically created Roe v. Wade.
HEY, STUPID, DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION? I’M PUTTING THIS IN ALL-CAPS BOLD TO MAKE SURE, OK?
The real problem with Akin’s remark wasn’t his awkward phrasing — using the word “legitimate” to distinguish actual rapes from “false claims” of rape — but rather his idiotic idea that this would be a good time to discuss Dr. Willke’s bizarre “spastic tube” theory.
Yeah, great sense of timing there, pal.
UPDATE: To extend the argument, my point is that Akin didn’t just make a stupid remark, he was too stupid to understand what was so stupid about it. And yet 36% of Missouri GOP primary voters thought, “Hey, let’s make this stupid guy our Senate nominee.”
We can’t blame the other 64% of primary voters for Akin, but once he’s shown himself to be hopelessly stupid, how can anyone claim that conservatives are now obligated to line up behind Akin and support him 100%? Yet I go onto Twitter and see people making this argument, that it is somehow disloyal — an act of cannibalism — to demand that Akin step down. Because I guess that’s how conservatives prove that they are superior, by their courageous defense of stupidity.
UPDATE II: Rebecca Kiessling is an attorney who is pro-life and was herself conceived as a result of rape. So I think we have to say she’s got complete moral authority here:
“If you are 100% pro-life with no rape exceptions, there is no need to question the veracity of a rape victims’ account, because you are against all abortions. It would not matter if a woman was not or not raped,” she continued. . . .
“Rape exceptions in the law actually put the government in the position of having to ascertain when the child was conceived, who the father is, whether the child was conceived during the alleged rape or during intercourse with her husband or boyfriend, and if the child was conceived during the time frame of the alleged rape, then the government would need to determine whether the sexual intercourse was consensual or not,” she explained. “So rape exceptions serve to perpetuate the injustice against rape victims that their accounts are to be viewed with skepticism, and it further leaves the majority of impregnated rape victims wholly unprotected under the law. Rape exceptions suggest that a ‘real rape victim’ couldn’t possibly love ‘the rapist’s baby’ and that rape victim mothers don’t exist.”
We need more smart people like Rebecca Keissling speaking for the conservative cause, and fewer stupid Republicans like Todd Akin.
UPDATE III: Missouri resident Jim Hoft:
It’s official. The 5:00 PM deadline just passed and Todd Akin refused to step down. What a disgrace.