Thursday, August 23, 2012

Poorly Stated: What (I *Think*) Todd Akin Really Believes and Why

It was a terribly bad quote by Missouri State Representative Todd Akin, referring to the instances of pregnancy from forcible rape (as opposed to statuatory rape, by the way) and how the woman's body "shuts down" in the case of rape.

For the record, this is biologically unsound...of course pregnancy can result under the right circumstances (the rapist emits his...errr...genetic material...inside the woman and the woman is ovulating at the time). The idea that anything but this would be true makes no sense.

However, I would like to state for the record what I believe is the root of this argument from with Mr. Akin. (Yes I believe he does genuinely think that "a woman's body shuts down" as incredulous as it sounds.) I believe Mr. Akin is the type of person who only talks to people who share his beliefs. (Before you liberals get started, there are PLENTY of liberals who do this, which is why so many believe such ridiculous statements as "Republicans are declaring war on women!" (by defending the right of unborn children to live).
I believe the idea that a woman's body "shuts down" came from one such circle, this time of well meaning conservatives who are staunchly opposed to abortion, so much so that they believe even in cases of rape, abortion is wrong.

For the record, I agree with the following concept: The unborn baby has DONE NOTHING WRONG. It is still a human being and has the right to life. To do otherwise is to punish the child for the sins of the unfortunate father. It is simply saying, in short "We believe that any unborn child who has been conceived, under whatever circumstances, is a human being. Human beings have, above all other rights, the Right to Life. Ergo, it is not acceptable to destroy a human life, despite the circumstances of how it was created."

When you look at it by THAT measure, all of a sudden the "horrible, terrible" position of not wanting a rape exception to abortion isn't so horrible and terrible, now is it? It's just a lesser of two evils position that holds as it's highest ideal protection of human life.  (Now I am even okay with having some sort of public service to help a woman who is impregnated under such circumstances with the costs involved, along with preferential adoption for the child.)

For those of you who don't think I get what this means to a woman, it turns out I do. I'm going to be a little bit graphic here, so if you're easily offended you may want to stop reading and come back tomorrow.

I know a woman who, it is speculated, may have been conceived from her believed grandfather having incestually raped her mother as a teenager. This woman (the child, not the mother) is one of the most wonderful, loving women on God's green Earth. She is, in fact, my own personal Rock of Gibralter and a wonderful mentor to me and many many other people. She is my grandmother. The incestually raped teenager was my great-grandmother, and the man in question was my great-great grandfather.

All of this is speculation, of course, especially because my great-grandmother (the teenager from the story above) passed away when I was a baby. This theory is the product of my mother, a licensed clinical social worker with a Master's Degree in Social Work from Syracuse University. Mom has spent more than thirty years in family social work, including fifteen years of working with children in foster care. So she has a solid basis of expertise for her theory.

The bottom line of this true illustration is this: Irregardless of how my grandmother was conceived (whether our theory was correct or if we're entirely wrong and my great-grandmother was simply impregnated out of wedlock by some high school boyfriend), my unborn grandmother was and is a human being. She had the right to live.

Today, my grandmother is less than a month shy of her 80th birthday. She married a wonderful man, my grandfather, and had three children (including my mother). She also has today eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren (so far). Three of those grandchildren and one great grandchild are through marriage, but even so, a total of NINE living, breathing people between the ages of 8 years old and 56 years old would not exist (including me) if it was for a "rape exception" to abortion laws, had my great grandmother made that "choice." Even setting aside the NINE PEOPLE who have, to-date, sprung from Gram's branch of the family tree, had that "choice" been made, one of the single most wonderful people I have ever known would not have been born.

Thankfully, back in 1932 when Gram was born, abortion WASN'T legal in Maryland, where she was born (or any other state, I think). Thank God Gram WAS born, married my grandfather, lovingly conceived and raised my mother along with my aunt and uncle; all three each got married and in agregate conceived five children, including me, and one of those grandchildren, my cousin, now has an eight year old son of his own. 

Now, what I have just done is given a GOOD explanation for the conservative position that says abortion is wrong, even in cases of rape and incest. I want this to be contrasted with what Todd Akin said. Both my story and Representative Akin's had the same goal: to protect unborn children, irregardless of if they were conceived under highly unfortunate circumstances. My story explains the realities of the the abortion discussion; specifically that it's not JUST about the woman (although please don't understand me, the rape victim deserves to be considered)'s also about the child!

Representative Akin's story, on the other hand, comes with both a bad, unsubstantiated argument AND a poor explanation of the real crux of the matter. And THAT is the problem with what Mr. Akin said. His position is more than defensible, it is admirable. He wants to protect human life. There's nothing wrong with that. Lots of conservatives think that way. However, it's time conservatives learn how to articulate our perfectly reasonable point. It's either that or continue allow liberals to present complete straw man arguments. It's our choice.


  1. That is the fundamental problem with the argument. It isn't based on anything measurable and is just an attempt to illegitimize raped women who get pregnant, just so there are no rape exceptions during abortion.

    The fact is, your argument is wrong. He has no alternative meaning to what he stated. He really *does* believe if a woman gets pregnant from rape, then she really wasn't raped.

    This statement, and follow-up statements from conservatives only further proves my point.

    There are countless others.

  2. The fundamental problem with your argument is that you refuse to argue the point I've gone and made. It would of course require a modicum of intellectual honesty for you to actually understand that there is a legitimate argument behind having a problem with the "rape exception." So please tell me how your tap dancing eliminates the problem with "if the child is human, it's wrong to destroy it"?

    Please, do explain how giving links of a handful of cases equals a case against all conservatives? Answer: It doesn't. Nor will it. Meanwhile, I'm going to go on a limb and guess you're just dandy with a President who thinks that if a baby survives an abortion it's ok to destroy it when it clearly can live outside the womb...

    ...or was that not reported in the HuffPo?

    1. Your argument is flawed because unlike humans that have been born, the fetus has no cognitive abilities, memory, a fully formed brain, etc. It's just a clump of cells and it is not even viable (it can't live for even 5 minutes without its host). That's why your argument is largely invalid. The "baby" requires a host at that point.

    2. Your argument first is that Todd Akin meant something else when he claimed that if a woman got pregnant from a rape, then she really wasn't raped. That statement is completely and 100% false. Just the fact that conservatives even entertain the idea is a joke. Everything else regard where life starts and ends is completely irrelevant to the statement "a raped woman won't get pregnant".

  3. I never said Akin didn't believe the idea of rape can't result in pregnancy. I actually said it was a stupid argument and that he probably got it from only talking to people who agree with him and trying to convince people of his ultimate belief: that abortion is wrong because it's a human being.

    As far as my "flawed argument" lets talk about the flaws in your argument. #1, please, PROVE that the unborn child isn't human. Until you can prove, IRREFUTABLY, that it ISN'T a human being, then the wisest thing to do is to assume humanity. It is better to protect a non-human unnecessarily than to destroy a human in ignorance.

    Two, as far as "can't even live 5 minutes" let me ask you a question: How long do you think a 1 year old child would last without a parent (whether biological or not) to care for them? Would that 1 year old live? Nope. So I suppose, based on your logic, that 1 year old isn't human either.

    1. Okay, first, can you prove that it *is* a human? There is a point where it does indeed have a brain and a nervous system, but do you know exactly when? As far as late-term abortions, those should be prohibited, as when the fetus is late term, it already does have some cognitive function.

      Think about Terry Schiavo. She was complete vegetable and couldn't survive without machinery and had 0 cognitive functionality. We should have kept her alive just for the sake of it?

      "How long do you think a 1 year old child would last without a parent (whether biological or not) to care for them?"

      That's the key: it doesn't need to have the *same* parent take care of it. Any person could take care of the child at that point.. it isn't strictly tied to its host. With a fetus, it *is* strictly tied to the host, at least in the earlier terms.

    2. I find it genuinely sickening that your attitude is "prove it's human or else we can totally kill it." That makes ZERO sense. The reality is we do not know. I grant you that we do not know at what point humanity begins (save for it's some point from the moment of conception forward.) So we have Option A) Assume it's human and ensure that we don't destroy a person or B) Assume it's not human then later find out we were wrong and we legally killed millions of people in the womb.

      Bottom line, and you cannot get around this, is that the humane thing to do is assume humanity, because, and this is the key: that way we won't accidentally destroy a person.

    3. Why is that attitude sickening? We kill plenty of things just because they aren't human. Ever eat a cheeseburger?

      I don't buy this "safe thing to do businesses". To me, it's even *less* of an issue than the Terry Schiavo case (which you conveniently ignore). This fetus has no brain, nervous system, cognitive ability, memories, etc. Nobody has interacted with it, and it hasn't interacted with anyone.

      It was OK with the conservatives to kill Terry Schiavo (and me too) because she was a complete vegetable, but nobody had to *prove* that she would *always* be a vegetable.

    4. I also find the sheer cognitive dissonance astounding. Conservatives love war and always look to start wars. When the issue of civilian casualties is brought up, the conservative response is "that's just an unavoidable side effect in any war". Protecting human life is so important, that it's okay to kill civilians in the name of national interests.

    5. And further, conservatives love the draft. My right to life is soooo important and expendable, that it's less important than the government claiming to need my services to fight a war. If the right to life is the most important right, then why can government force me into a situation where my life is directly at risk?

  4. I believe this debate is different and orthogonal to the issue of when human life begins. Although the nature of human life and the morality of a rape exception are worthy debates; they are just different topics to what Akin believes regarding the biology of the human reproductive system. My understanding of the current issue proposed on this blog is: Does Akin really believe that woman have physiological mechanisms that inhibit pregnancy after rape? My depiction of this issue betrays my true feelings about the entire quote - it was utterly disgusting. However, I will try to avoid such attacks during my commentary.

    I believe the evidence is overwhelming that Mr. Akin believes women have physiological mechanisms that inhibit pregnancy after rape. All one needs to do is watch the clip in its entirety. I don't understand how one can disagree with this conclusion. This is something he said on television and was not a gotcha moment. It APPEARS (this is where I take my analysis further to develop my opinion) that his belief comes from his devout beliefs, the circles he travels in, but more importantly, it emerges from a profound avoidance of critical fact checking when forming his own opinions. I UNDERSTAND how people may come to this conclusion. That doesn't mean I in any way agree with them; I simply mean it is entirely too easy to arrive at conclusions without a factual basis. My point here is that the man's profound ignorance of human biology indicates he does pursue a factual understanding of the world around him. A simple google search or consultation with a family physician could have set the record straight for him.

    1. Now, regarding the onset of human life and a rape exemption. If we are going to have a debate, I believe we should strive for (what I consider) the most idealistic goal. The idealistic goal is one in which all sides begin with the recognition of the potential that their initial opinions in all likelihood will bias their ability to objectively see facts contrary to their opinion. In other words, the first rule is that all sides must first recognize and imbrace their own limitations. The second goal is, and I think you'll see why the first is so important and why I consider this idealistic, is that every side involved should walk away with a genuine understanding of the other parties opinions, beliefs, and facts. "I disagree, but man do I understand where you are coming from."

      Regarding Life: The notion that dividing cells are alive is a profound point grounded in biological reality. However, the fact remains that such cells lack several critical features the typifies the "human condition." Can both sides appreciate these points? I don't know.

      Regarding the rape exemption: The notion that we should protect life is clearly a moral virtue we should all live by. Obviously, whether or not you believe this applies to the biology of the human reproductive system depends on your interpretation of several other virtues, including what I listed above concerning human life. However, one must also consider protecting the life of the mother as well as her quality of life. Pregnancy is unquestionably a life changing event for women. Not only does being a mother start a new chapter in a woman's cognitive life (i.e., the psychological thoughts she carries), but also leaves an obvious mark on her physical life as well. Pregnancy does change a woman's body. Therefore, both sides should ask whether it is fair to the mother to endure such a life changing event, with both the pain (physical and mental) as well as the joy (again, physical and mental), when it was not something she chose for herself? Admitting that it is not fair to a woman to carry a rapist's seed to term does not, by necessity, mean that opponents of a rape exception are wrong or that proponents are right.

      Of course, there are a myriad of other issues to come to terms with, and my decision to ignore them belies how important they are (e.g., who is the steward of a woman's body?).

      I really hope that at the very least everyone can appreciate that if we give women a right to choose between giving birth or having abortions, it must be a painful decision to make. I for one just hope that I never have to be involved with such a decision.

    2. I'm really bothered by the fact that you don't get the idea that I'm not defending Akin. I didn't defend him in the post.

      As far as your concern for the woman, it is indeed admirable. But there is a problem: You're flat out ignoring the baby. In your argument it's all about the woman. The woman deserves consideration, but SO DOES THE CHILD.

      When it comes to the natural rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, there IS a hierarchy: your right to pursue happiness ends when it infringes upon my liberty and your right to liberty ends at my right to be alive.

      So while I do completely understand your concerns for the woman, and it is admirable, especially in the case of rape, one must ask another question:

      Is it the child's fault that his father was a rapist? Does the child deserve to be denied the right to live because of the sins of his father?

      Should the child be destroyed when IT didn't ask to be conceived? If it is a human being, how is it acceptable to destroy it because of his father's sin?

      Now I agree with you entirely, it isn't fair to the woman to be asked to carry a rapists child. I realize that. It is also not fair to say that an innocent child should die because his father was a rapist.

      There are ways to lighten the load. I am a proponent of the creation of a charitable organization, or in the absence thereof a government agency who would provide for the financial needs of the woman in question as well as placing the child at the top of the adoption lists.

      I recognize the seriousness of what I propose. It is incredibly unfair to the mother, I realize. However, I also consider it to be even more unfair to say to the child "you do not get to live."

      Look at my story in the post. If our family speculation is true, and if my great-grandmother had a) had the adoption to abort Gram and b) did abort her, a wonderful woman who is approaching 80 years old never would have had the chance to live. She would never have met the wonderful man who was my late grandfather, together they never would have procreated my mother, who would not have had the chance to meet my father (another very good man) and lovingly procreate me and my sister.

      I'm sure it was very difficult for my great-grandmother (whether the situation is as we speculate or if it was just a standard out of wedlock pregnancy), but please consider that child. She got to LIVE and has so far lived a happy and productive life! When one stops and looks at that innocent child, it becomes clear that the child deserves a lot of consideration too.

  5. As far as Mr. Akin, I agree. He probably genuinely believes what he said about a woman's body shutting down. I also ask you to please note that I DO NOT agree with him in the slightest in his biological beliefs.

    I do believe the ROOT of these claims starts with well meaning people who believe that the only acceptable reason for abortion is a mother's life is in physical danger (rather than emotional danger or whatever tilt might be applied) and the doctor can only save one life. The Hippocratic Oath requires doctors to save the more viable life, which is almost always the mother.

    Please note, however, my thesis was not what Todd Akin "meant" it was what he "really believes." By that I do not mean that he doesn't buy the "body shuts down" argument. I was saying that the root of his beliefs is that the #1 priority is to protect innocent life, then do our best to accommodate all other issues after that priority is handled.

  6. Quick side note: I'd like to say how much I'm enjoying having a rational conversation free of both bumper sticker slogans and mudslinging with you, my friend.

  7. I'm sorry if I implied you were defending Akin. I merely wanted to move the comments past the old, endless argument.

    I also regret not elaborating that consideration of the unborn is also a noble and necessary avenue for the debate. I sort of implied that in my remarks about when human life begins. I hope you can see that I only intended to spur mutual understanding of everyone's opinions.

    I think you and I actually share tremendous agreement on this issue: we both believe abortion is a horrific experience. I differ from you in that I believe it is up to the individual to trod their own path through Life. But let me make that point clear: there is nothing pleasant about abortion. I commend you for putting your family's story out there in the open, that was truly brave of you. However, for every sunny story there are also dark tales that end in mental illness, physical afflictions, poverty, and general despair.

    But maybe there is a better solution than denying people the ability to make a life changing and painful decision. Why don't we work to end the need for abortions?

    Let's find creative solutions to stopping rape. Maybe more efficient legal resources for victims? Maybe we all should volunteer at a rape crisis center so a victim will not have look far for a compassionate and informed ear?

    Let's find creative solutions to sex education that really enables adults to make informed decisions regarding their sexuality. I foresee that contraceptives become an issue for many here, but we shouldn't shy away from a diligent discussion.

    Let's find ways to lighten the load (and then genuinely invest in them!). Certainly, a mother should never have to question her economic, mental, or physical abilities to see herself reflecting off the eyes of her child.

  8. First and foremost, don't worry...I fully understand your intentions and I took no offense in any way. I was at no point thinking you were simply stating your side of the argument for the sake of, as you put it, mutual understanding.

    You should know that on the vast majority of issues, I believe it is also up to the individual to trod their own path through life. However, I also believe there are some moral absolutes. I would say the most important absolute is that human life is precious and deserves to be protected above all else. Simply stated, since I am convinced that the unborn child is indeed a person, I do not consider destroying that person a valid "choice."

    Sometimes I think we treat all "choices" as the same. Some are valid, some are simply not acceptable choices morally. I'll give you an example: The choice to let your child eat meat or only serve him vegetarian food? Valid choice. The choice of whether or not to feed your child period? Not a valid choice. The former is still providing your child with the life necessity of food. The latter is not. I believe that there are choices that are simply not okay. Destroying an innocent human being is chief amongst those invalid choices.

    It is admirable to bring up the idea that there are bad situations for a child to be born into, but that does not mean it's ok to destroy that child! Who are we to decide that, in advance mind you, that it's better to not live than to live a less than perfect life...especially not knowing what that life might be.

    What I didn't tell in my story is that Gram's childhood wasn't good. Her parents were emotionally abusive to her and physically and emotionally abusive to her brothers. The happy ending didn't happen until she was in her twenties and met my grandfather.

    Fact is it is not up to us to make that choice. It's up to God and God alone to make that call. We do not have the right to say "this child's life isn't worth living because..."

    Or perhaps I could put this another way: Lets say the police find a five year old girl living in a home where she is physically abused and not being fed. Do we destroy the child? No! We take the child out of the bad situation and put them in a healthy one.

    The above illustrates something that I feel the pro-choice lobby likes to ignore: The options aren't a) keep the child and raise it to adulthood or b) abort it. There is a third option: adoption.

    Ultimately, I do not believe that making abortion illegal is denying people the ability to make a choice that they shouldn't be allowed to make in the first place. To me it is precisely the same as a woman who has a one year old baby she does not want killing the baby. No one would say that is just a "life changing and painful decision"...we'd simply say it's absolutely wrong!

    Now, as far as the rest of what you have said, I have no problem with doing what we can to stop rape. As far as contraception, I think you will find that very few argue against true contraception. (We will argue that the government shouldn't be providing it or forcing insurance companies to provide it free...but that's not the same thing as opposing contraception. I also don't want the government to give people free baseball caps. I like baseball caps just fine, actually, and I own several!)

    Now, before I pull an Akin when I say "true contraception" let me explain what I mean: Contraception is something that either through barrier or hormone treatment STOPS conception (hence the name contra-ception). Abortion, by definition is not contraception because it doesn't STOP conception, it destroys an already conceived child.

    As far as lightening the load, I have no problem. Again I am fully in favor of some kind of system to help in that situation. I'd strongly prefer it be a private charity. But I'm even ok with it being government.


All posts will be reviewed subject to the Rules for Commenting. Any post that does not abide by these rules will not be posted, entirely at the discretion of the blog editor.

Commenters who repeatedly violate these rules will be permanently banned from commenting, and thus none of their comments, regardless of content, will be posted.