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Opening Arguments

Legitimate question

Simply answering the question of whether abortion should be permissible in cases of rape can get a candidate into enough trouble. Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin found a creative way to really boost the negative reactions:


While explaining his position, Akin claimed that pregnancy only rarely results from “legitimate rape.”

“Well you know, people always want to make it as one of those things where how do you slice this particularly tough, sort of ethical question,” he replied. “It seems to me first of all, 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 on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

The thing is, I don't think he really did "explain his position." We know Akin has some unsupportable ideas about women's bodies, and his casual use of "legitimate" rape raises a lot of troubling questions. But we don't know whether his brand of pro-life grants an exception for cases of rape or incest, which seems to be the mainstream conservative position these days.

And it's an exception I can't quite fathom, because it represents a major inconsistency in pro-life advocacy. The pro-life position is that the unborn child is a legitimate (if I may borrow a phrase from Akin), unique human being as much entitled to the protection of the law as any other human being. Furthermore, those unborn children, being more vulnerable (or "innocent") than the adults who conceived them, deserve even an extra measure of protection.

If that is true for one unborn child, isn't it true for all of them? Why make an exception for those conceived by rape or incest? Does that make them any less vulnerable and deserving of rights? Why make them pay for circumstances that they had no control over? If I say abortion is murder, how can I say it's not always murder and still be credible?

If someone can explain this inconsistency in terms that make both logical and ethical sense, I'd love to hear it.


Mon, 08/20/2012 - 11:57am

By using the term "unborn child" to describe a fertilized egg, you have already stacked the deck against any attempt to explain any view inconsistent with your own.

Perhaps you could drop that definition, then try to place yourself in the shoes of a rape victim being forced to bear (and then presumably nurse and raise) the child of her rapist, may you could answer your own question. Otherwise, this is a silly exercise.

Harl Delos
Mon, 08/20/2012 - 3:35pm

I learned my lesson on this about thirty years ago.  At that time, it was rasical feminists arguing that rape needed to be taken more seriously, that it was an act of violence, not sexually motivated, and virtually no rape results in pregnancy; often, the rapist cannot even get a usable erection.

I spoke up, said that was a dangerous way to go because accused rapists could argue that if there was semen found, it was not rape, and if there wasn't, that would suggest a lack of penetration (in many states, penetration is an essential element of the crime.)

Boy, was I attacked!  Having been raped as a preschooler, having taken friends to the ER minutes after being raped, I have no sympathies for rapists.  However, I think having a separate rape law is stupid.  A sexual assault is assault, and would be more successfully prosecuted as such.

I, too, am disturbed by his talk of "legitimate" rape.  Maybe he's thinking it's not really rape if she's too drunk to say no at the time.  He needs educated. You need consent, not lack of protest. On  the other hand, you can't change your mind the next morning.

I don't have a problem with "unborn child".  In many states, you candrop off a child at any ER or fire station if you don't want it, no questions asked.  If the hospital can figure out a way to keep a 14-week fetus alive, then let someone else adopt him.  Nobody has the right to be in anoth person's body against the wishes of that person; that's called rape.