Missouri Congressman Todd Akin was asked in an interview that was released on Aug. 19 about women who have been raped and whether they should have the option of abortion if they were to become pregnant.
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said in regard to cases of pregnancy after rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
While Akin has been clearly misinformed about human biology, there is a much more pressing issue at hand than his knowledge of the female anatomy. What makes Akin’s statement controversial is that he suggests that there are varying levels of rape, and that under certain circumstances, lesser forms of rape exist as opposed to the general definition of rape. Along these same lines, the term “forcible rape” was coined by Mitt Romney’s presidential running mate Paul Ryan in a recent anti-abortion bill, hinting that there is such a thing as “voluntary rape.” Ryan co-sponsored the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” with Akin, initially listing no exceptions for abortion in cases of rape, incest or “anything else.”
The next day, Akin apologized for his comments on “The Mike Huckabee Show” and said he “misspoke” and released an ad the day after.
“Rape is an evil act,” Akin said in the video ad. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them. The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”
Since his initial comments, calls for his resignation and his withdrawal from the Missouri Senate race have come from the Democrats as well as the Republicans, a subject that, ironically, both parties seem to agree on. President Obama said Akin’s comments were “offensive” and Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said the congressman’s words were “insulting” and that he should “exit the Senate race.” Akin refuses to step down and step out of the race, a move that may hurt the Republican Party’s chances at another Senate seat with their candidate stewing in controversy. A handful of conservatives and religious leaders maintain their support of Akin, including Rep. Steve King, who said on CNN, “I think this election should be about how did Todd Akin vote and what did he vote for, what did he stand for. In this case, I’m seeing the same thing—petty, personal attacks substituting for strong policy.” King does have a point that each voter should consider all the facets of what makes or breaks a candidate and fully understand their positions on issues. However, when Akin, a candidate for the federal government, makes a comment that is so misinformed and, frankly, disgusting, it’s hard not to judge how he really views the crime and its victims.
There is a reason why Akin’s comments caught my attention. Two very close friends of mine, both students at UVU, are victims of rape, a crime that I would never wish upon anyone. I would never dare say that one friend’s experience of rape was more “legitimate” than the other. Listening to their painful, heart-wrenching experiences drove the reality of the world that we live in close to home and opened my eyes to just how many people live with memories from this awful crime. Each year, 207,754 people are sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. As many as 54 percent of victims never report the crime.
As sad as it is, the number of rapes that go unreported doesn’t really surprise me, especially considering that there are even congressmen in our federal government who essentially propose that, under certain circumstances, one can define one rape case as more legitimate than another, even if the congressman did misspeak. How can victims have a sense of protection and expect justice for the crimes committed against them if even government officials question the legitimacy of their claim? Every rape counts, and should be treated as such.