Rep. Akin’s Knowledge of Human Biology (or lack thereof)

(trigger warning for discussing rape and pregnancy.)

I’m sure a lot of people have seen the remarks made by Rep. Todd Akin (he’s currently running for a spot in the senate).  If you haven’t, here they are:

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.

I’m not sure which is  more disturbing:
(a) the specifying of legitimate rape (which implies there is an important subset of rape called “illegitimate”  or  “women lying about being raped”)
or (b) the fact that this legislator–someone who participates in making laws about things like reproductive and sexual health–was walking around with a completely misguided and wrongheaded set of beliefs about human biology that probably could have been cleared up if he had taken / stayed awake in a sex ed or anatomy class.

17 thoughts on “Rep. Akin’s Knowledge of Human Biology (or lack thereof)

  1. Or how about (c) The fact that he is not alone, and is one of thousands of legislators (state and federal) caught up in this atrocious groupthink. He was just one of the many who decided to espouse that crap out loud and get it caught on tape.

  2. Frighteningly, Rep. Akin is on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Yikes!

  3. Years ago – and I mean about 25 years ago – I had several women students come to me with this ‘science’ they had heard from a sociology prof.

    I am beond horrified to learn that this ugly, stupid, psuedoscientific nonsense is still being spouted by *anyone.* I am very seriously looking to expatriate as soon as I can.

  4. It’s terrifying, but not completely out of the realm of possibility, given that this is a country whose idea of sex education is simply “Don’t.” And they leave it at abstinence.

  5. Hi, I’m from Missouri… a lot of us know that Akin’s a real asshole and we’re working hard to get Claire McCaskill re-elected. But yeah, his comments yesterday made me really embarrassed to be from this state.

  6. Wow. These articles on Akin were making the rounds on facebook yesterday.

    Trying to put oneself into the rhetorical framework or position of Akin is what I found most disturbing. The context of Akin’s remarks show that he thought he was being conciliatory and moderate by making the claim about “legitimate rape.” (!!!) He was trying to use the claim to temper or moderate his view that abortion should never be allowed. This makes it maybe an even more astronomical “fail” on Akin’s part than perhaps it was otherwise. Akin really, truly seems to believe that his (lack of) medical knowledge makes his frightening position on abortion less scary.

  7. I think that his unintentional implication that date rape and coerced sex are legitimate forms of rape is even more horrific than his pathetic views on biology.

  8. I was just saying elsewhere, I’d like Rep. Akin to explain away pregnancy from rape as a weapon of ethnic cleansing in wars such as Bosnia’s. Would he seriously commit to the statement that victims of war rape weren’t really raped?

  9. Hi Kathryn,

    Who knows? At this point, he obviously realizes that it’s unwise to do so, but clearly neither logic nor decency control his beliefs.

  10. I thought this post from The Progress Report was worth sharing.

    Legitimate Rapes?

    Aug 20, 2012 |

    By ThinkProgress War Room

    A Shockingly Anti-Woman Agenda

    The news today has been dominated by discussion of the shocking and offensive comments made over the weekend by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO). Akin, who is also currently the Republican candidate for the Senate in the Show Me State, explained that victims of “legitimate rapes” are not likely to become pregnant and thus should not enjoy abortion rights:

    “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
    For the record, more than 32,000 women get pregnant because of rape each year in America.

    While Akin walked back and later apologized for his comments, condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans alike was swift and fierce. And today, virtually every leading Republican with the exception of Mitt Romney declared that Akin should drop his Senate bid. Due to Missouri election law and Akin’s own declarations today, it appears that Akin is very likely to remain the GOP candidate despite financial abandonment from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
    Akin did find some defenders among influential conservative groups, including the American Family Association, Red State’s Erick Erickson (who is also a CNN contributor), Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and the Susan B. Anthony List.

    The Anti-Woman Ticket

    What’s perhaps even more shocking than Akin’s comments is the fact that a majority of elected Republicans appear to share his general views on parsing the definition of what counts as rape and what doesn’t, as well as his radical views on numerous other vital women’s health issues.

    None other than vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) has teamed up with Akin on a personhood measure that would ban abortion in all circumstances as well as outlaw common forms of birth control, a bill to redefine rape, and even a bill that would allow hospitals to let women die rather than perform a life-saving abortion. The latter two measures were actually among the first measures passed by the House of Representatives after Republicans took over in 2011.

    A closer look at the views of the Romney-Ryan ticket reveals the depths of its hostility toward women’s issues:
    • In 2007, Mitt Romney said he would “delighted” to sign a national ban on abortion, which he described as “wonderful” and terrific.”
    • Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have supported radical personhood measures that would ban abortion in all circumstances, as well as outlaw common forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.
    • They both also support the Human Life Amendment, which would overturn Roe v. Wade.The Republican National Committee will actually vote tomorrow on including this particular anti-choice measure in the official GOP platform.
    • Ryan has voted to defund Planned Parenthood and end the Title X family planning program and Mitt Romney has pledge to “get rid of” federal funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X should he be elected president.
    • Both oppose requiring insurers to offer no-cost birth control coverage and they supported the Blunt Amendment, which would allow your boss to deny you insurance coverage for anything for any reason at all.
    • Both would repeal the Affordable Care Act (as Ryan has actually voted to do dozens of times) and its numerous benefits for women.
    • Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, while Romney has refused to take positions on these key pieces of equal pay legislation.

    BOTTOM LINE: The GOP’s war on women runs far deeper than Todd Akin’s shocking comments. By selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney has made clear that he sides with the GOP’s most extreme forces on the social issues important to women and their families.

  11. all this talk of legitimate rape victims reminds me very much of bill napoli, the representative from south dakota who described his version of what counts as legitimate rape during the discussion leading up to the 2006 ban on abortion in south dakota, which treated abortion as a felony (for doctors, not for the women seeking abortion, because duh). the ban left an exception for the life of the mother. his understanding of that exception was the following (tw):

    “A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl, could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.”

    under the current understanding, six years later, such an impregnation would be impossible. but at base the message is the same.

  12. I especially horrified that, it seems to me, it implicitly suggests that if you *did* get pregnant, maybe it wasn’t legitimately rape after all. Since, if it was, you body would have used its ‘ways’ to ‘shut the whole thing down’.

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