Todd Akin and the perils of ‘personhood’

Two weeks ago, Missouri’s Todd Akin took a big step in his quest to go from the U.S. House to the U.S. Senate by winning the state’s Republican primary for the seat. Instead of moving toward unseating incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, however, Akin may have taken an even larger step back this weekend with his remarks about rape and abortion during an interview with a St. Louis TV station:

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.

From his bizarre distinction between “legitimate rape” and, well, I’m not sure what (maybe Whoopi Goldberg could help him out with that?) to his crackpot notion that the female body “has ways to try to shut [pregnancy by forcible rape] down,” Akin has created a hot, offensive mess. There are calls from conservative commentators and at least two Republican senators (Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin) for Akin to drop out of the race and let someone else fight the general election against McCaskill.

Whatever becomes of Akin’s candidacy — he indicated in an interview this afternoon on Mike Huckabee’s radio show that he doesn’t plan to quit the race — I really hope the backers of the so-called personhood amendment have been watching.

Akin might have found the most offensive, least intelligent way of stating opposition to one of the three most common exceptions that many pro-life people would make for abortions (the other two being incest and a threat to the life of the mother). The problem with the personhood approach, which would eliminate at least the rape and incest exceptions, is that there really isn’t a way to put it that persuades most Americans.

Gallup has perhaps the longest record of tracking public opinion about abortion. While the trend over the past couple of decades is clearly in an anti-abortion direction, one consistency is that the position with the most adherents — by far — is for abortion to be “legal only in a few circumstances.” That’s “a few,” not “one” or “none.”

Add the “few circumstances” group to the “no circumstances” tally, and three in five Americans support much stricter regulation of abortion than has been in place since Roe v. Wade. But only one in five supports making it completely illegal.

There is a certain inconsistency to the personhood approach: Why make it OK to take a life in certain circumstances, but not others. Life is life, right?

It’s far from clear, however, that consistency is the top priority for Americans on this issue. It’s more likely the case that Americans want to strike a balance among the sometimes-competing interests of protecting the innocent, personal responsibility and personal liberty.

My guess is the rape exception remains an imperative for most people because a woman doesn’t choose to be raped and cannot possibly be deemed responsible for that action or a resulting pregnancy. However pro-choice and anti-abortion people differ about the question of responsibility in other cases, this one seems beyond debate.

That’s probably a big reason personhood failed in statewide referendums in Colorado and Mississippi. It’s a big reason I’m convinced, despite its showing in a non-binding vote on last month’s Georgia Republican primary ballots, it would fail in Georgia if there were a statewide vote for a personhood amendment to the state constitution.

The vast majority of elective abortions in this country have nothing to do with rape or incest. Right-to-life groups — and aspiring politicians — should focus on those.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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137 comments Add your comment

md

August 20th, 2012
1:38 pm

Yes, he stepped in it big time. And if he stays in the race he is doing it for himself, not his constituents.

sheepdawg

August 20th, 2012
1:43 pm

RTL groups and their aspiring politicos should just go away, please. This is not a government issue.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

August 20th, 2012
1:45 pm

He’s a dummycrat plant. Notice how he speaks of their issues and not America’s issues?

Beverly Fraud

August 20th, 2012
1:48 pm

He couldn’t have said something THAT stupid on his own. He’s obviously “juicing” like a Marion Jones was in her heyday.

Clearly, he needs to be tested for using PED.

Performance Enhancing Dumb.

Beverly Fraud

August 20th, 2012
1:51 pm

Well he is right about one thing: the body DOES seem to have a way to “shut that whole thing down.”

In his case, it shut down his brain. Bet he wishes it had shut down his mouth instead.

jd

August 20th, 2012
1:53 pm

The GOP has a history of promoting “bad science” From 2003 in the Georgia Senate (check the morgue files Kyle)

In the debate over SB 23, [Sen. Don] Thomas was one of the senators who voted to remove a section of the bill that would have provided an exception for women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Thomas contended that women who are raped rarely get pregnant because their bodies are “unprepared” for intercourse.

Cutty

August 20th, 2012
2:02 pm

If the RTLers were so focused on lowering the number of abortions, they woulsnt be so against health insurance covering birth control. But people like Akin believe insurance paying for viagara is a right, while insurance paying for birth control such as the pill, is an abomination and goes against the Will of God. Go figure.

Lightnin

August 20th, 2012
2:04 pm

How does this compare to Obama’s voting FOR Partial-Birth Abortion and AGAINST the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, which prevents babies that survive abortion attempts from being killed or left to die? Akin’s comments hardly matter compared to that!

SlickRick - glad to no not have to worry about suffering through Myth Robme and The Boy Wonder's ineptocracy

August 20th, 2012
2:05 pm

I’m absolutely shocked that a conservative said something so completely and utterly stupid, ignorant, offensive, insulting and completely at odds with well-established science!!!

Oh, wait. Never mind. He was just being . . . well, a fine, upstanding example of what passes for conservatism today.

Dare I say: “Obama/Biden 2012!!!!” and “locking up the victory”?

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

August 20th, 2012
2:08 pm

He completely made up that lie about “what he’s hearing from doctors.”

liar.

md

August 20th, 2012
2:08 pm

“believe insurance paying for viagara is a right, while insurance paying for birth control such as the pill, is an abomination ”

Just to clarify, but this comparison is quite faulty within the framework of medicine. Birth control pills for medicinal purposes should be covered, as the intent is to fix/repair. The same intent lies behind the coverage of viagra (although many providers still do not cover it), it is a medicinal “repair”, no different than repairing the other two legs.

Birth control to prevent a child is a choice…….not a medical necessity to fix/repair.

Will

August 20th, 2012
2:09 pm

Sounds right in line with republican thought.

Remember the reality tv star who was elected governor of Alaska but quit less than two years into the job so that she could make some money?

She thinks that dinosaurs, IF they ever really existed, are no more than 2000 years old because the Bible tells her so! Republicans also believe NOTHING on earth is more than 2000 years old because the Bible tells them so.

southpaw

August 20th, 2012
2:10 pm

“From his bizarre distinction between “legitimate rape” and, well, I’m not sure what…”

One of Jay’s bloggers went off Jay’s topic and coined the term “illegitimate rape,” apparently as the counterpoint to “legitimate rape,” but wondered what it is. I’ll repeat my definition here.

Illegitimate rape – sex that is consensual at the time, before one party regrets it a day or two later and decides that it was forced, after all.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

August 20th, 2012
2:10 pm

Legitimate vs illegitimate?

This fits well with the conservative notion that a large percentage of rape victims are lying about the rape.

The compassionate conservatives are everywhere, aren’t they?

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

August 20th, 2012
2:11 pm

Southpaw also thinks many rape victims are just lying about it???

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

August 20th, 2012
2:13 pm

not a medical necessity to fix/repair.

an erection is a medical necessity? The individual’s life would be in danger if they couldn’t have that? Other than sex, what does the erection do for the owner? Point directions?

Beverly Fraud

August 20th, 2012
2:18 pm

From Todd “the Genius” Akin

“I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Notice he has to qualify the word punishment with “some.”

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

August 20th, 2012
2:18 pm

Yes, he should immediately drop out of the Republican primary and join up in the dummycrat race, where he can babble all day long about mindless garbage with the rest of them, sort of like where this blog is headed.

Fiddle away, Neros.

BW

August 20th, 2012
2:19 pm

Lightin

One suspects he will be held to account for his comments just the President would for his “comments”. I put that in parentheses because I don’t see any attribution of the comments to a link. Anyway quit deflecting….this is about Akin and how Missouri voters will see his comments…his unforced error was egregious…it’s ok to call someone out on your side

BW

August 20th, 2012
2:20 pm

I Report

I like the deflection to “dummycrats” :roll: …funny how he won a three way GOP primary by majority in his state and now you think something’s wrong with Missouri Republicans.

Glenn

August 20th, 2012
2:20 pm

Really though I think if you are running for office the best thing you can do is stay away from the abortion argument . Its a suckers argument that isn’t winnable . Whats the line……Just don’t get it on me .

BW

August 20th, 2012
2:22 pm

Kyle

Do you agree with Ron Johnson and Scott Brown that he should step aside by the withdrawal deadline?

southpaw

August 20th, 2012
2:23 pm

Finn McCool @2:11
Southpaw also thinks many rape victims are just lying about it???

“Many?” Probably not. More likely just a few. Do I think it doesn’t happen at all? No, I don’t. What do you think?

Sandra

August 20th, 2012
2:23 pm

@ Finn McCool,
Amen to your questions! If we can’t support birth control then pray tell me why would insurance ever supposed to support this stupid stuff? Could it have anything to do with the old white men who make the laws? Hypocrites everyone of them!

SlickRick - glad to no not have to worry about suffering through Myth Robme and The Boy Wonder's ineptocracy

August 20th, 2012
2:24 pm

I’m thinking the GOP has been legitimately raped by Mr. Akin and the whole party now needs to aborted. That way perhaps it can be reborn with some semblance of saneness.

Beverly Fraud

August 20th, 2012
2:25 pm

Right now there are MILLIONS of science teachers saying “Thank GOD this guy isn’t in my class, and I’m not responsible for his test scores.”

Hillbilly D

August 20th, 2012
2:25 pm

There’s no shortage of political loons, left, right, or center. In a week or two, we’ll be on to the next one and this guy will fade back into obscurity, where he belongs.

southpaw

August 20th, 2012
2:27 pm

Too late, SlickRick. Since you suggest the party be “reborn,” it’s already been born. Aborting it is no longer an option.

Up Up and Away

August 20th, 2012
2:28 pm

I Report

You know that Akin stepped in it, but as usual you have nothing more than your usual “dummycrat” blather.

If you know how that name calling reflects on your thinking skills and you as an individual, you probably would not care, but would be nice if you actually knew it

Lynnie Gal

August 20th, 2012
2:28 pm

Aiken’s comments were way beyond the pale, but his statements accurately reflect the general attitude of Republican men about women’s health issues, including Aiken’s co-sponsor of anti-women legislation, Paul Ryan. These white Republican men think they are the best people to decide whether women should have access to birth control, mammograms, pap smears and safe and legal abortion. It is increasingly obvious to many women as well as men who love their wives, daughters and sisters that this crop of white Republican men who took control of the U.S. House of Representatives is incredibly hostile to women to the point of being misogynistic. They have attacked Planned Parenthood, proposed “Personhood Amendments” and tried to force women to have vaginal probes. Any woman who votes for one of these Republican men votes against her own health and self-interest. Now, Republicans need to figure out a way to create more voter restrictions and special photo ID requirements for women in addition to the plan they have in place to restrict voting rights of students, minorities and the elderly. Hurry, guys! Time to make voting only available to white male property owners, circa 1659.

InAtl

August 20th, 2012
2:29 pm

I think he’s a moron and should drop out of the race, and I’m a Republican. Taxpayers should NOT be footing the bill for contraceptives or Viagra, period. People, at some point you have to spend your own money on this stuff. We’ve turned into a nanny state.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

August 20th, 2012
2:29 pm

Akins — Doin’ ma best to keep the Senate blue!

JF McNamara

August 20th, 2012
2:29 pm

“That’s probably a big reason personhood failed in statewide referendums in Colorado and Mississippi.”

…or maybe its because women showed up in droves from both sides of the aisle and voted against it. Men want this. Women do not, and they will show up to vote against it.

It’s a horrible thing to do so instead of focusing on forcing women to do something, why not focus on the reasons women get abortions? If you solve those, then you’ve solved the problem without a shouting match.

detritusUSA

August 20th, 2012
2:31 pm

Apparently intelligent republican is an oxymoron!

InAtl

August 20th, 2012
2:32 pm

Lynnie Gal engaging in her usual hyperbole:
“These white Republican men think they are the best people to decide whether women should have access to birth control, mammograms, pap smears and safe and legal abortion”

What a load of &*%$. I’ve never in my life heard a Republican candidate call for restrictions on women’s access to birth control, mammograms or pap smears. Get real.

Beverly Fraud

August 20th, 2012
2:32 pm

Apparently this is big news even outside the United States:

From the St. Peter Herald

When asked about his remarks, Mrs. Schiavo was quoted as saying, “And I thought I was brain dead.”

Matz

August 20th, 2012
2:32 pm

In the War on Women, you’re either WITH us, or AGAINST us.

Choose wisely, as we will remember your choice.

SlickRick - glad to no not have to worry about suffering through Myth Robme and The Boy Wonder's ineptocracy

August 20th, 2012
2:34 pm

southpaw – Mr. Akin has now forcefully (and without first obtaining consent) impregnated the GOP with even more wackiness (much more so than already, in other words). Per Mr. Akin, since it was a ‘legitimate raping’, the GOP can, without any moral restrictions, about the fetid foetus. Perhaps the GOP can then be reimpregnated with something more normal.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

August 20th, 2012
2:35 pm

Taxpayers should NOT be footing the bill for contraceptives

If you’re a Right Winger, let’s think this through. You don’t want to provide contraception to the poor people who can’t afford it? Aren’t those people the “takers”? Aren’t the takers the ones who vote Democrat?

Here you have a chance to provide contraception to the one group that po’s you more than any other – the one that helps the Dems get elected. Providing this tool slows down the Dem voters from making more Dem voters…..but NOOOOOOO. Short term thinking is what gets you Cons into this party of atrophy.

An Observer

August 20th, 2012
2:37 pm

I do not think that any sane voter in Missouri will vote for Todd Akin after hearing what he just said. He might as well withdraw now and let another candidate run against McCaskill. Maybe the republican party can withdraw their nomination of his candidacy and have the person who came in second in their primary run against McCaskill.

InAtl

August 20th, 2012
2:38 pm

Finn, you may adjust your principles to suit your owns interests, but I don’t. Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for stuff that goes on in the bedroom, no exceptions.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

August 20th, 2012
2:39 pm

Not only one, but two face palms for the soon-to-be former GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in Missouri.

southpaw

August 20th, 2012
2:42 pm

SlickRick @2:34

“impregnated the GOP”?

Not possible. There’s nothing female in the GOP. See, for example, Matz’ “War on Women” at 2:32 and LynnieGal’s 2:28 post.

Stonethrower

August 20th, 2012
2:43 pm

He did offer an apology.

Road Scholar

August 20th, 2012
2:45 pm

Once again, if you do not want an abortion, do not get one! My religion (and I am a Christian) is not your religion! People who get an abortion will meet our maker when they die, just like you!

Beverly Fraud

August 20th, 2012
2:52 pm

I hope he had the decency to buy all his campaign workers “I’m with Stupid” T-Shirts.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

August 20th, 2012
2:54 pm

Yeah, some Republican this guy is, let’s the libs sucker him into the trivial, or better known as the outer limits of their comprehension, instead of just blasting them on their mountain of ridiculous economic ideas.

Up Up and Away

August 20th, 2012
2:57 pm

I report

Keep spinning

Mandingo

August 20th, 2012
2:58 pm

Johnny Reb Rebublicans work hard to take our nation backwards one step at a time. If he had any intregrity what so ever he would step aside . He reminds of what comes out of Mitt R-money’s mouth in the sense his party has no room for men of good moral character. Team politics will bring our nation to its knees in suffering and prayer.

Rockerbabe

August 20th, 2012
2:58 pm

Kyle: you are such a willfully ignorant person at times. Reproductive rights that women take for granted are the same rights men have for the most part. The main right, is the right to make your own decisions regarding medical care and the directionof one’s life without interference from a 3rd party. The fact is, most folks do not care about anyone else’s reproductive rights, except the ones they are personally involved with at the time. Abortion is a private matter, as is childbrith and all other medical issues. It simply is none of your business.

As for the personhood bills; these are doomed to fail. These personhood bills deny women their own personhood and ownership of their own bodies. No one or anything is entitled to use my body for their purposes without my permission. That’s why rape, is rape, be the victim male or female.
Telling women or 51% of the population that they do not have ownership of their bodies is a stupid thing. Telling women who are pregnant that they are the only persons on the planet who are not entitled to the right to defend their own right to live against a situation that will kill them or make them disabled is a denial of a women’s human rights. Not to mention constitutional rights to not be subject to forced labor against their will, etc. Akins is just the latest GOP idiot to talk about women and their issues with such ignorance and stupidity that it befuddles the mind. I hope he goes down in flaming fashion.