How can a politician bury an extreme position?
Here in Missouri, our own Republican candidate for the United States Senate has found a perfect method.
It is, in part, a philosophical question as to whether a citizen of Missouri should be concerned about the quality of education kids receive in Arkansas or Mississippi. President Bush, what used to be mainstream Republicans, and even conservatives used to agree that no child should be left behind.
In part, it is a matter of practicality. States cannot routinely amortize costs, even when benefits extend years and decades ahead. Businesses can. The federal government can.
Representative Akin opposes such considerations. At the Missouri state fair, he was asked about it. St. Louis Public Radio was there.
"I think the federal government should be out of the education business; I think that's something that should be done at the state level. I used to be a state legislator...states can handle education stuff fine, (and the) federal government doesn't really add any value."
It was a clarification of his thoughts on school lunch programs for little kids. Todd Akin opposes that as well. If the states can handle it they should. If not, well, the priority for Republicans should remain further tax cuts for the extremely wealthy.
The news coverage was national. Dailies on Florida, Los Angeles, Washington State, Charlotte, pretty much everywhere, covered the proposed elimination of school lunches for hungry children.
This past weekend, Todd Akin had a chance to clarify his stance further. Charles Jaco is a local interviewer who conducts a weekly show on the local Fox affiliate. He asks all the controversial questions, but he stays polite, doesn't press too hard, not much on follow up. He asked Mr. Akin about the school lunches. Representative Akin explained that he had no objection to feeding kids. he just felt like states would handle it with less waste. No value was added by the feds.
Charles Jaco pretty much let it go at that. He went down the list of other issues. He had asked, and Mr. Akin had given his boiler plate responses, and it was on to the next item. Pell Grants followed, the farm bill, restrictive voter ID laws. After the commercial break, Mr. Jaco went to yet the next item and got to abortion. Todd Akin is a personhood anti-abortion advocate. Even many kinds of birth control should be outlawed. He tried moderating his position just a little. There are extreme circumstances in which a fetus definitely will not survive, and the only question is the survival of the pregnant woman, which depends on an abortion. Mr. Akin is for optimizing life, so maybe in those cases. Nothing would be lost and the woman would survive.
Jaco, surprisingly, went to a follow up question. How might the optimizing of life apply to rape cases? Would that also be an exception?
Todd Akin was ready for that one. He exposed the liberal pro-abortion lie about rape exceptions. You see, "legitimate" rape victims don't get pregnant. You can find that wisdom on at least a few personal blogs inspired by the sort of medical information passed about in Fellowship Hall at some churches on Sunday. Pediatricians might scoff, but they are seldom enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Not so Mr. Akin.
"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."
There might be extremely rare instances in which female natural anti-pregnancy processes might miss a rape or two. But why punish the fertilized egg? We should punish the rapist instead.
"Let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
Okay. So keep it outlawed. The exception does not exist. It's a myth. In almost all cases of legitimate rape, victims can't get pregnant. On to the next question. Said Jaco, "Let's go on to the economy."
There you have it. The abortion answer made everyone drop their teeth on the table. Now nobody anywhere is reporting on eliminating school lunches for hungry kids in order to help finance tax cuts for the wealthy. That controversy has been blown away like ashes in the breeze.
How many politicians could come up with that sort of creative strategy? Akin. What a guy!
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I really don't get this. It's like he's saying rapists should only be punished if they impregnate their victim.
As for Akin’s comment that women who are raped cannot get pregnant, well that simply is not the case. It was foolish and detrimental to say otherwise. That said, if one believes that abortion is murder, then consistency would dictate that even in the case of a pregnancy to a rape victim, one should not commit the murder of an unborn child via aborting him or her. Mr. Akin is correct in that regard that it does no good to punish the child with its execution simply because the sperm donor took unwanted and forced liberties with the woman. It is the rapist that must be seriously punished; not the innocent child.
Akin was under the impression that women have a natural defense against unwanted pregnancy. Most cases in which supposed rape produces a child are therefore cases of consensual sex instead.
(Of course, "misinformed" is the most favorable description of his beliefs. It is also possible that he is willfully ignorant, preferring the familiarity and comfort of his religious beliefs to harsher reality. I do not know which is the case.)
What you quoted is his acknowledgment that there might be some exceptions. Even in those cases, he believes that the child should not be punished for a crime that its father committed. In other words: he is still opposed to abortion because he values the life of the fetus over the benefits of abortion. Whether or not he continues to believe that rape rarely leads to pregnancy because women have a natural defense against it, he will vote against abortion.
The upcoming election, then, still pits a "pro-lifer" against a "pro-choicer." Whether Missouri voters will care more about his ignorance or his position on abortion remains to be seen.
No, I got that. But it seemed to me that he's suggesting that if something didn't work (ie, the mythical anti-rapebaby function of a woman's reproductive system) *then* the rapist should be punished (or punished more). Which strikes me as an additional problem with everything he said.
Another problem with Akin-land logic is that if abortion is murder (I'm firmly in the camp that it's not), then wouldn't the triggering of the mythical anti-rapebaby part of the woman's reproductive system be murder? Is he saying that rape victims murder their own babies?
(Just a final note, I did some googling and found that a woman is actually almost twice a likely to become pregnant from a rape than once instance of consensual sex.)
Here is what I take his argument to be:
If a woman is raped, then she is not likely to become pregnant. If a woman is raped and does somehow become pregnant, then the rapist should still be punished, but the child should be left alone.
He probably felt the need to clarify that the rapist should still be punished if a pregnancy occurs because his previous statement suggested that pregnancy indicates consensual sex. In any case, I chalk this up to poor phrasing rather than an unwillingness to punish rapists equally regardless of pregnancy.
As for the second point, whether or not this mythical anti-rapebaby process kills anything in the first place in a pro-lifer's mind depends on whether it destroys an already fertilized egg or simply prevents fertilization. Whether or not it is murder depends on the woman's conscious control over the process. He did not indicate that women have control over that process, so he is not saying that rape victims murder their own babies.
I absolutely agree with your conclusions, but in the mind of a pro-lifer, if a zygote is a life, then logically it follows that a miscarriage or stillbirth can be manslaughter. Otherwise, there seems to be a huge inconsistency. Personally, I think this ridiculous conclusion needs to be brought out, and Akin's comments regarding women's anti-rapebaby juices open the door to it.
Even manslaughter requires some degree of responsibility on the part of the criminal. For example: a drunk driver who kills a pedestrian may not have intended to do so, but his drunk driving was criminally negligent, so he bears responsibility. In contrast, a woman has no control at all over natural miscarriages or stillbirths, so she cannot be held responsible for them. Just because they take place within her body does not mean that they are her fault.
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