On Sunday, Todd Akin (R-MO) opined that if you really hadn’t wanted that man to penetrate you, you wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. By yesterday afternoon, multiple Republican groups had withdrawn their support and asked him to leave the senate race. It turns out you can’t say absolutely anything you want into a microphone in the United States of America, despite the occasional impression to the contrary. Now, approximately 48 hours after he tried to explain why he believes women who have been forcibly impregnated by strangers should have to bear their children, Representative Akin has produced an apology. Forgiveness video after the jump.
Poor Todd Akin. If only there were some way to undo the worst thing that ever happened to him! Oh, well—I guess he’ll have to live with it for at least the next nine months, possibly quitting his job, while he thinks every day about how things might have been different if he hadn’t been in that place at that time. But we can’t let him off the hook—that would only punish the innocent Daily Kos staff writers whose columns were conceived at the moment he said that thing.
Akin’s claim that “rape has many victims” is an extremely weaselly way to apologize for his remarks without substantially altering them. Provided you do not consider four cells a baby, rape has exactly one victim, and the least we can do is allow her to decide whether she wants to have a child. We haven’t been calling Akin an idiot for the last ten years, though. His opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest is objectionable, but it’s not what we’re objecting to. As Akin put it, “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold.”
So let us consider Akin’s heart, which he should probably stop holding and put back in his body immediately. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s accept that Akin, an engineer who sits on the House Science Committee, does not believe that a woman’s uterus can scrunch up and repel sperm she really doesn’t like. That is a medievally stupid idea, and Akin has already said that the words he used to express it—the literal meaning of the sounds he made on television with his mouth—were a mistake.
Akin’s apology doesn’t really clarify what he meant to say, though. Rape is bad and he is still against abortion even in case of it, but how does that connect to his mistake-words? He has ruled out the biological interpretation. As any point guard who left college his sophomore year and now Akin will admit, you can get a girl pregnant whether you like her or not. So when he said that thing about “legitimate rape” in an effort to explain his position on abortion, what did he hold in his heart?
The Onion has a pretty good guess, but it might not be 100% accurate. I submit a second hypothesis. We know Akin is a religious man, and we know that his stance on abortion is grounded in his religious beliefs. Also he wants votes, sweet votes, but the idea that he would start talking about “legitimate rape” for that purpose is too depressing even for me. I think it’s something more insidious than that. I think that, in the back of Todd Akin’s mind, he believes that God makes sure everything is basically okay.
That part of his brain can’t accept that a married mother of two could be knocked down and impregnated by a homeless man in a parking garage, because that would be horrible. It’s probably also the part of his brain that opposes welfare, since poor people must be at least a little lazy. It would be horrible if there were people who worked super hard and didn’t waste money and still couldn’t make enough to get by. God wouldn’t let that happen, and Representative Akin believes in God. He appears to be one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason.
I submit that few ideas are more corrosive to human compassion than “everything happens for a reason.” It’s the kind of thinking that encourages you to believe no “legitimate rape” could get a woman pregnant. It is the reasoning that converts suffering to punishment and encourages us to see victims as accomplices. It is superstition, and part of the reason it is so popular is that it relieves us of our obligation to be kind to one another. The heart Todd Akin holds doesn’t care about rape victims as much as hypothetical babies, and maybe it will believe anything in order to comfort itself. Maybe that’s what he meant to say.