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Dylan Brody Headshot

It's Not Impossible to Conceive

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AP
AP

Todd Akin said that in the case of "legitimate rape" a woman's body has a way of avoiding pregnancy. Then he apologized, saying he had gotten a word wrong; he didn't mean "legitimate," he meant "forcible."

Now, as the mainstream media involve themselves in discussions of fifty shades of rape, Republican pundits say this is all a distraction from the important issues that need to be discussed. They know better. The distinction between a legitimate distraction and a forcible misdirection is not lost on them.

Like the disingenuous, oil-industry invested climate change deniers who muddy environmental issues with non-scientific proclamations of solar cycles and the creationists who build museums to miseducate America's youth about the history of the planet and the origins of humanity, Todd Akin has taken a nonsensical bit of folklore convenient to his political position and introduced it to the zeitgeist.

While we on the left take umbrage -- and rightly so -- at the idea that only forcible rape is considered "legitimate," and are drawn into a re-arguing of women's right to be legally protected from date-rape, drug-rape, sexual coercion and the myriad other abuses, indignities and invasions to which they have been subjected over the centuries, Mr. Akin with his one "wrong word" has given traction to the idea that in a traumatic sexual assault, pregnancy cannot be induced. That idea, that single, fallacious, rapist-enabling seed of an idea need only find a fertile environment in the minds of zealots to have a devastating effect on women's rights. If ministers, preachers, politicians, law enforcement officials come to believe this nonsense, there ceases to be a need for abortion rights in the case of rape because rape, according to someone they heard on TV, cannot cause pregnancy. What's worse, the simple fact of pregnancy can be used as proof that no rape occurred. This is not some half-formed, slippery-slope argument. Already, the Republican Party has put forth a platform that includes the revocation of a woman's right to choose even in cases of rape and incest.

We shouldn't have pundits on the air discussing whether the word "legitimate" is more offensive than the word "forcible." We should have Department of Health and Human Services representatives on every news show on every major network and cable channel saying, "What Mr. Akin said is inaccurate and unscientific. These are the facts about rape and rape-pregnancy statistics." Close the book on that idea before the ink is dry on the first lines of its misogynist introduction.

Only then can we free ourselves of the misdirection that has us discussing what modifiers should go before the noun and get down to the real issue at hand. Why does the right wing of the Republican Party actively seek to support and enable rape?