Like any sentient person, I was appalled by Missouri Republican Congressman
But unlike the many people proclaiming their outrage on Facebook and Twitter, I'm actually grateful to Akin. And not, as many liberals have sneeringly gloated, because he has effectively dug his entire party into a hole that it might need a
I'm grateful to Akin because he has forced those who feel strongly about
It's that simple. Guys like Akin know this. The sponsors of the so-called Human Life Amendment, the strict antiabortion platform that calls for no exceptions and was approved Tuesday by the National Republican Convention's platform committee, know this.
It's hard to resist the impulse to ridicule the contorted reasoning that hard-core pro-lifers have put forth to explain why exceptions to an abortion ban aren't necessary. Garance Franke-Ruta writing on the Atlantic Wire this week called out a 1999 article by John C. Willke, a physician and former president of the National Right to Life Committee, which may have "informed" Akin's thinking. Writing in "Life Issues Connector," Willke makes a point of distinguishing "forcible rape" or "assault rape" from statutory rape and then embarks on an elaborate mathematical calculation purporting to prove the unlikelihood of pregnancy resulting from rape (women are only fertile three days a month,15% of men are sterile, and so on.) Perhaps most astonishingly, he also tells us "there are approximately 100,000,000 females old enough to be at risk for rape in the United States."
Cue the indignation from pro-choicers everywhere. Does Willke truly not realize that there's no such thing as being "old enough to be at risk for rape"? Does his definition of "forcible" include the psychological force exerted upon children for whom the words "don't tell" are as binding as any form of physical restraint?
Fair questions, but in the end, they don't really matter. That's because the very fact that it's possible to argue about what constitutes rape means that any attempt to afford special privileges to its victims is, simply, intellectually dishonest. If you believe abortion is tantamount to murder, the only logical position is to oppose it without exception; rape, incest, life of the mother be damned (though in the latter case, perhaps abortion could theoretically be justified as an act of self-defense). If you believe in a woman's right to choose, the only logical position is that abortion should be available to anyone for any reason at any time — including unpopular reasons like disappointment with the fetus' gender.
It's not a pretty picture, nor is it a dispute that is likely to be resolved any time soon. And that's why both parties have pretended for so long that the abortion debate is about rape, which at least everyone agrees is horrible. But Akin's remarks — and the fact that the
If we do so forcibly enough, we just might start a legitimate discussion.