A message to candidate Todd Akin, Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri:
I believe the words you looking for are “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
That, Mr. Akin, is the very least you could say.
Not, “I misspoke.” Do not apologize for using the wrong words in the wrong way. Do not apologize as if you were misunderstood and some people took it the wrong way.
Because by saying this, you have apologized for nothing but a grammatical error. You were and are wrong Mr. Akin. Very, very wrong about what you know about rape, women’s reproductive health, individual rights and even about the human heart.
For those reading who may be wondering what this is about – though how could you given that this has been all over the news and social media – here's a quick run down. Sunday, Mr. Akin appeared on the Jaco Report on Fox2 Now in St. Louis. News anchor Charles Jaco asked the candidate his opinion on abortion and if he thought abortion could be considered in cases of rape in which a woman becomes pregnant.
The answer left many of us dumbstruck.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors (pregnancies due to rape are) 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.”
Following that comment, Jaco dropped the topic and their conversation immediately turned to the economy. So I’m taking the liberty of asking what Mr. Jaco did not.
First off, what is legitimate rape? I’m sure you have a clearer definition than the one you gave Jaco. The way the comment dangled out there it seemed almost as if you're saying, “Well obviously some of these victims are lying.”
It’s true that not all who claim to be victims are indeed victims. That applies to EVERY kind of crime such as legitimate robberies, legitimate murders, legitimate fraud and legitimate ignorance. The latter may not be criminal but is no less destructive.
Could you enlighten us on how it is that a woman can control whether or not they become pregnant during a rape? The body shuts down? There are hordes of young women in this country whose sex education boils down to “Don’t have sex!” And they are eager to hear what you have to say.
Remember, this has been ALL OVER the news.
What other inaccuracies should we throw out there?
They say you can’t get pregnant on your first time. So that 13-year-old raped by a family member or family friend can rest easy, right? Is that when the body shuts down? They say you can’t get pregnant if you have sex standing up? Ah, that must be when the system shuts down the pregnancy possibility. Doctors must have missed telling us that.
Why not discuss these things as absurd as they are? These are things mentioned by doctors in passing, too, I believe. Probably the most important reason they are not discused is because they are a bunch of childish nonsense, just like what Todd Akin said Sunday to Charles Jaco.
Most of us are educated enough to understand the basics of pregnancy and that it occurs when sperm is introduced to egg. Our school’s health science classes may not say more than that, but they do teach that.
CNN reports that the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, along with Planned Parenthood, estimates that 5 percent of rapes lead to pregnancy. A 1996 study from the Medical University of South Carolina found the same percentage, adding that 32,101 pregnancies occurred annually from rape, according to the report.
Statistics on pregnancies that result from rape are difficult to produce, since rape is a crime that often goes unreported, the report continues.
A quote from CNN blogger Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the director of the university's Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, caught my eye.
“The body doesn't differentiate between "legitimate" rape and "illegitimate" rape -- whatever that is. The body doesn't know whether the rapist is known to a victim. The body doesn't know if a knife or a gun, or alcohol or drugs (or any combination of them), were used.”
“Every sexual encounter does not lead to pregnancy, but every sexual encounter leads to the possibility of pregnancy. Period.”
Which brings us back around to the responsibility that we have to our children. Especially those that are in the public eye or leadership positions. It doesn't matter if you are conservative or liberal, we all should be right -- no matter what our beliefs are.
We can't tell every woman that they are inherently evil for seeking to end a pregnancy that could have been prevented if only we educated our children better about their own bodies. To knowingly withhold information about sex and their bodies, and then watch them flounder is irresponsible parenting and leadership. And worse, to then blast them when they make a major mistake, casting down words of fire and brimstone, is downright obscene.
Then we group them all together -- the victims, the scared, the lonely -- and we call them evil for looking to halt a pregnancy. And we call those who step up to help them criminals.
Remember that childbirth is a woman’s burden. Not the attacker's. Not mine. So many of these women have a strength that we could never understand. Not only to survive a sometimes brutal attack, but to be mentally strong enough to make a decision that comes with the added pressure of living up to a moral code followed by many who have no idea what it's like to be in those shoes.
The one thing I am certain of is Todd Akin owes a lot of people a big apology -- not some half-hearted spin doctoring trying to remain in the right.
(Oh, and Mike Huckabee, you wonder why you can't get the backing to be president. You keep making stupid rationalizations like it worked out for some, means you'll remain a political footnote with a radio show.)
Because, like it or not, your religious or moral beliefs don't dictate what is right or wrong for someone else. It's their decision. And if part of healing from an attack means erasing a sign of the attack, no matter the cost, then let them heal.
Rather a little bit of healing rather than years of pain and resentment, not just for the mother, but for a child.