Early this week, Missouri Representative, Todd Akin, made headlines when he “enlightened” the American people on the concept of “legitimate rape.” According to Akin, women who are legitimately raped are not subject to the risk of pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try and shut the whole thing down.” Aside from demonstrating a clear need to increase health and science education funding- two subject areas in which several Republicans seem to have limited knowledge- many media adjuncts have dubbed these heinous comments as the nail in the coffin for the presumed Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, in his efforts to rally a strong female voter base.
Over the past several months, women’s rights issues have been brought to the political forefront on the campaign trail. There is more than one reason for the sudden emphasis placed on women’s issues, but arguably the most palpable explanation is the strong role that the female demographic will play in determining the outcome of the upcoming election. According to an article posted by the National Journal, a relatively small number of young female voters who are disengaged from politics will be the deciding factor in a handful of critical states this November. As a result, each campaign and their allies will be spending an astronomical sum of at least $2.5 billion dollars in an attempt to persuade these political novices.
Both candidates have worked hard to be perceived as the stronger female advocate. The Obama Administration has highlighted their dedication to women by lowering female health care costs through the passage of the Affordable Care Act and pointing to the President’s support of Planned Parenthood and LGBT marriage rights. Meanwhile, Romney has attempted to win women over from a purely economic perspective. According to Romney, women have been hardest hit financially as a result of President Obama’s economic policies. Regardless of whether or not there is actually merit to these claims, it is evident that Romney also sees the need to court the female vote.
In light of this, the Romney campaign has found itself scrambling in the wake of Representative Adkin’s horrendous rape comments. Romney rebuked Akin’s statements calling them “insulting, inexcusable and frankly, wrong.” He did not, however, request that Akin step down from running for reelection. In addition, Romney’s spokeswoman assured voters that victims of rape would be allowed access to abortion under the Romney-Ryan administration.
Presumably, the GOP base considered this apology and reassurance enough to sever any link that the public has made between Akin’s chauvinistic faux pas and the Romney campaign. However, the negligent remarks still leave a bad taste in the mouths of many. For one, it reinforces Romney’s well-deserved reputation as a flip-flopper. While he has been fairly consistent in his view on abortion with regard to rape and incest, one can’t help but scratch their head when looking at his reaction to Akin’s comment and inspecting Romney’s selection for a running mate, Representative Paul Ryan.
It is important to note that Ryan has not condoned Akin’s remarks; however, his track record during his 14 years in Congress certainly seems to echo Akin’s sentiments. Ryan has an irrefutable pro-life voting record and has been revered by the National Right to Life Committee for having voted in accordance with their agenda on 59 key pieces of abortion legislation. Ryan also co-sponsored a controversial bill, which if passed, would give fetuses “all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges.” This "personhood" legislation would fundamentally ban abortion care- including cases involving incest or rape. Luckily, this bill never went up for a vote.
In all fairness, it is safe to say that the Romney campaign assumed they would not have to spend insurmountable amounts of time smoothing over Paul Ryan’s archaic perspective on women’s rights. The Representative was obviously selected for his well-known conservative solutions to fixing the American economy- Romney’s presumed “golden-ticket” to winning the Presidency. However, the Romney campaign’s tunnel vision with regard to selecting a running mate shows just how out of touch the candidate is with the concerns of women in America. While Romney may not agree with Ryan’s outlook on women’s issues, choosing him as Vice President seems to say that the blatant legislative attack Representative Ryan has led against female autonomy is not worth addressing. In reality, this could not be further from the truth; the Akin’s incident has made that clear.
In this day and age, it is baffling that these discussions even need to take place. To promote an anti-abortion agenda by claiming that one form of rape is less serious than another is egregious. Forcing a woman to engage in a sexual act should never be a partisan issue. A rapist does not ask a woman if she is a registered Republican or Democrat or if she plans on carrying a possible pregnancy to term. It is an act based on the rapist’s desire to overpower a woman both physically and emotionally. The effects of rape on a female’s body and mind are incredibly serious and to downplay the aftermath is on par with condoning the action itself. There is simply no room for that kind of mentality in a democratic society and certainly not in public office.