Todd Akin, Abortion and Legitimacy

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time here talking about leadership, and I think it is fair to say that we all respond best to leaders who are not afraid to say what they think, how they feel, and to honestly communicate what they see ahead for us.

Even when we completely disagree with their vision, it is easier to respect them if we believe that they believe.

So it is of great interest to me to take a look at this weekend’s comments by Senate Candidate and Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri.

Appearing on St. Louis television station KTVI-TV, Congressman Akin said the following when asked about abortion in cases of rape:

“Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question?

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.”

So we can discern from Akin’s comments that he is not in favor of abortion in the event of a “legitimate rape” due to his belief that the body can stop the pregnancy itself. (I’m sure we’d all like to learn more on this phenomenon from his expert panel of “doctors”)

The follow up question that is missing here, is asking him to define “legitimate rape” vs an illegitimate one.

Now, I can’t speak for Akin, and unfortunately for him, his silence on this lets us draw our own conclusions.  When we try to do so, we discover that this is not a new line of thinking from those within his political sphere, who believe what Akin does.

For example, in 1995, North Carolina Republican Representative Henry Aldridge made these remarks to the House Appropriations Committee as it debated a proposal to eliminate a state abortion fund for poor women:

“the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work” during an attack.

Maybe then, if it is a case of a rape that takes place on a date, after some other forms of intimacy, when the juices are flowing, it is not counted as a “legitimate rape”?

I always thought, no meant no, but maybe that’s just me…

What about Akin’s past?  Any clues to his views there?  Any other remarks that might shed some light?

Well, in June 2011, Akin was discussing NBC’s removal of the words”under God” from a video clip of the Pledge of Allegiance. Akin told radio host Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

“Well, I think NBC has a long record of being very liberal, and at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God…. This is a systematic effort to try to separate our faith and God, which is a source in our belief in individual liberties, from our country. And when you do that you tear the heart out of our country.”

Two days later, Akin said he would not apologize, because he really meant that not all liberals hate God, but that liberals have “a hatred for public references for God.”

The next day, he further elaborated:

“People who know me and my family know that we take our faith and beliefs very seriously. As Christians, we would never question the sincerity of anyone’s personal relationship with God. My statement during my radio interview was directed at the political movement, Liberalism, not at any specific individual. If my statement gave a different impression, I offer my apologies.”

So, even though in serious damage control mode, he stuck to his core beliefs, parsed a few words, and agree with him or not, showed a willingness to not back down much on those particular beliefs.

Fast forward to the fallout from his “legitimate rape” comments and this is what he said:

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.”

He misspoke.

My question is, in which part was he mis-speaking? That the hand of God will intervene in the cases of legitimate rape? And his remarks were not “off the cuff”, they were part of a planned, sit down TV interview.

So much for leadership this time around.

Both sides will run to define him of course, and both sides will use it as a wedge issue to further their own ambitions. But nothing speaks truth like fact. And we have those facts in his own words. We know what he really believes.

And if you’re in Missouri, and you agree with him on this issue, then he’s your man.  Unless perhaps, you also value leadership.

Because, also on display here is Todd Akin’s unwillingness to lead.

Mr. Akin, if you really believe this stuff, why back down? Speak up. Stick to your guns. That’s what leaders do, even in the face of adversity. Look at Rick Santorum.  Sure he lost, but he didn’t wiggle around his core beliefs.

Or, you can back down, do what’s politically expedient and hope to live on to fight another day.  You can hope that in November, this will all have blown over.

And if you do, you are just another opportunistic politician that people claim to dislike.

One who fails the legitimacy test.

 

UPDATE:

Akin appeared on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s radio show on August 20, 2012:

“I was talking about forcible rape… It (legitimate) was absolutely the wrong word.”

So, forcible rape is what he meant.  Meaning, my earlier thoughts above are correct:

Maybe then, if it is a case of a rape that takes place on a date, after some other forms of intimacy, when the juices are flowing, it is not counted as a “legitimate rape”?

I always thought, no meant no, but maybe that’s just me…

Nice of Akin to clear that up by appearing on such an unbiased program.