August 23, 2012 — Columnists and others this week continued to discuss Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) remarks that pregnancy from rape is rare and that women's bodies can block a pregnancy from "legitimate rape." Summaries appear below.
~ Margaret Martonosi, CNN: "Rep. Akin and his cohort cannot be allowed to substitute folklore for science, and it is our responsibility to stop them," writes Martonosi, a professor of computer science at Princeton University. Akin should be removed from his position on the House Committee for Science, Space and Technology, where he "has a strong say in determining the long-term scientific progress of our country," Martonosi argues. Akin's comments are the latest example of how "when data goes against a politician's belief or hope, they try to refute the data and the science ... rather than taking on the higher-level and more complex policy issues regarding how to respond to the data," she adds (Martonosi, CNN, 8/23).
~ Shauna Prewitt, CNN: Eight years after a rape that led to the conception of her daughter, Prewitt writes that Akin's comments "not only flout scientific fact but" have "de-legitimized [her] rape." After giving birth to her daughter, she learned that "in the vast majority of states -- 31 -- men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy." After graduating from law school and fighting to change such statutes, Prewitt writes that her "efforts and the efforts of others to persuade legislators to pass laws restricting the parental rights of men who father through rape will be directly impacted by Akin's recent comments" (Prewitt, CNN, 8/22).
~ Meghan Daum, Los Angeles Times: Columnist Daum writes that she is grateful for Akin making the comments "because he has forced those who feel strongly about abortion to face the truth: When it comes to abortion, you're either in or you're out." She adds that the "real issue" is whether or not abortion should be legal, noting that "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." She continues, "If you believe abortion is tantamount to murder, the only logical position is to oppose it without exception," adding, "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" (Daum, Los Angeles Times, 8/23).
~ Gail Collins, New York Times: "Politicians who say they oppose all abortions are making perfect sense [in the context of their beliefs], except for the part where they try to impose their doctrinal beliefs on the vast majority of the country, which does not share that particular religious conviction," columnist Collins writes. She adds, "There's no way to set the worthy-of-compassion bar unless you trust women to set it for themselves." She concludes, "Maybe Akin's real sin is that he exposed the phoniness of the rape-and-incest exception, which is just an attempt to make radical extremism look moderate" (Collins, New York Times, 8/22).
~ Ann Gerhart, Washington Post: Akin "offered the latest modification in defining a male human behavior as a crime, a legal concept that has been undergoing construction and revision since antiquity," the Post's Gerhart writes in a commentary on the history of defining rape. She notes that the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program since 1929 defined rape as "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will," up until this year, when it was expanded to include other forms of sexual assault (Gerhart, Washington Post, 8/21).
~ Ruth Marcus, Washington Post: While "Republicans understand that the broader public is reluctant to sign on to the [abortion prohibition with] no-exceptions view, Democrats recognize that public sentiment is far more supportive of abortion in some cases than of abortion in most or all," columnist Marcus writes. She notes that about half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned and that about 40% of those end in abortion, while rape and incest account for only a "miniscule sliver" of that. "An abortion debate that rallies voters to support the right to abortion in only the most extreme cases may help Democrats in November," Marcus writes, but she concludes, "It risks failing the vast majority of women who face unwanted pregnancies" (Marcus, Washington Post, 8/22).