How Todd Akin and Paul Ryan Worked Closely Together to Define Rape in the US


Todd Akin made remarks regarding rape and pregnancy that most people are now aware of. PolicyMic pundit David Gray covered the story and explained the initial significance of the issue. Read Gray's article to catch up.  

Not only were the remarks by Akin reprehensible and medically false, but Akin is a man who co-sponsored legislation with Paul Ryan that included definitions of life, personhood, and rape. This article will provide you with some relevant data sources on the issue and some information about the legislation Paul Ryan and Todd Akin co-sponsored.  

We will examine the remarks, medical statistics of their validity, two pieces of legislation, Romney's positions on abortion, and Obama's position on rape.

The Remarks

When asked if Abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, Akin replied, "From what I understand from doctors that's really rare. If it is 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."

How would a woman with a child born as the result of a rape feel after hearing such remarks?

Summary of Data as Covered by the ABC News Medical Unit (View Article)

According to reporting done by ABC News, every 2 minutes in the United States someone is sexually assaulted, rounding out to 207,754 victims each year. Rape results in about 32,101 pregnancies a year, which leads to about 10,000-15,000 abortions per year. The article cites reports which say that between 6.42% and 7.98% of percent of raped women become pregnant, or double the 3.1% pregnancy rate of women having consensual sex.  

Dr. Lauren Streicher's response to the question of a woman's body being able to shut things down were, "You let me know if you find the doctor that knows how a uterus knows which sperm to ward off."  

PolicyMic Pundit Camira Powell covers more on rape, the female body, and pregnancy in her article, outlinging the myths and truths of rape, pregnancy, and the female body.

The Apology

Akin, in an apology, states that "the mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold."  

Was the Wording a Mistake?

According to Ian Millhiser, senior constitutional policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the phrase "legitimate rape," was not a mistake. Millhiser points to the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which "introduced the country to the bizarre term 'forcible rape.'"  According to Millhiser federal law already prevented Medicaid money and other from being used for abortion except for rape cases, but the bill Ryan and Akin co-sponsored narrows the exception to only allow abortion for pregnancies resulting from "forcible rape."  

Millhiser further remarks that public outcry led that term to be removed from the law and that Ryan believes the term forcible rape did not go far enough. He quotes Ryan's belief that abortion should only be legal in, "cases in which a doctor deems an abortion necessary to save the mother's life." Not rape.

Thus, Akin and Ryan were working together on redefining the wording around rape and what women's rights are in terms of abortion. Paul Ryan worked on legislation with a man who believed a woman's body prevented her from getting pregnant after rape. Together they tried to limit abortion with federal taxpayer dollars to those cases of "forcible rape."   

My conclusion is that this wording was not a mistake because Akin and Ryan together spent a lot of time trying to redefine what federal law saw as "legitimate rape," and when federal dollars could be used.   

View Millhiser's complete analysis in his article: "How Todd Akin and Paul Ryan Partnered to Redefine Rape." 

View the full text of the bill that Akin, Ryan and others co-sponsored.

Should women be concerned?

If you believe that rape should be more narrowly defined, support for women who are raped should more limited, and that a bunch of men should make this decision for them, then there is no need for concern. Paul Ryan and Todd Akin are working to make sure it happens.

If however, you believe that a woman should be at the forefront of decisions regarding her body and life long commitments to raising a child born out of rape, then these guys don't have your interests at heart.

Paul Ryan and Todd Akin cosponsored H.R. 212, which takes the issue further by defining personhood as the moment a sperm reaches an egg.

In the second attack on women's reproductive rights that Ryan and Akin worked on together the text begins, "H.R. 212 to provide that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization." This includes cloning or any functional equivalent and gives the person full constitutional protection. The three page bill then goes on to define fertilization, cloning, and human beings. You should read the entire text of H.R. 212.  

If a human life and all protections begins with fertilization, this means no morning after pill and no abortion. Not only were Ryan and Akin going after women's rights, they were doing so in a way that was unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is constitutional and they were trying to legislate above the judgement of the Supreme Court. (The bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution.)

Ian Millhiser covered this in his article, "Paul Ryan and Todd Akin Partnered on Radical 'Personhood' Bill.

Millhiser describes what this means for women's reproductive rights:

"Should Ryan and Akin’s personhood agenda take effect, however, it would drastically reduce women’s reproductive choice. The bill declares that a human egg obtains 'all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood' the moment it merges with a human sperm. Thus, a Blastocyst-American would not only enjoy the same constitutional status as a fully grown adult, it would also enjoy any 'legal' attributes enjoyed by adults. Because every states’ law makes it a crime to kill a human adult, the likely effect of Ryan and Akin’s personhood bill would be to treat killing a fertilized egg as the same thing as homicide.

"Such an interpretation would not simply ban abortion, it could turn many forms of birth control into the legal equivalent of a murder weapon. Many forms of contraception, including many birth control pills, function in part by inhibiting a fertilized egg fromimplanting in a woman’s uterus. Thus, Ryan and Akin’s personhood bill could render the act of using many forms of oral contraception the equivalent of a homicide crime."

Some who believe that rape can be parsed into a bunch of different categories believe that they are the best people to choose what is legal for all women in America, across the country, for all time - until their law would be revoked.

Romney's view on abortion is clouded because he has held all positions on the issue depending on who he is talking to.  

View this video featuring Romney's mutliple positions on the issue. Romney is running as a conservative now, so he is trying to sound like a conservative today.

If Romney now believes that a woman is not capable of making her own choice as well as a President, or a bunch of mostly male lawyers in Congress... what changed?  How does one reach that conclusion?

President Obama's clear position regarding rape is distinct from Ryans and Akin

View Obama's remarks in response to Akin's statements.

After careful study of the issue, one can see exactly how wrong Akin was in his remarks. You can also see that Ryan co-sponsored two pieces of legislation with Akin messing around with the definition of rape and dramatically limiting women's rights. Romney does not bring any clarity to the issue of his beliefs on abortion because the views he is expressing seem to depend on who he is speaking to. Obama's position is that rape is rape. 

Do you believe a bunch of men, lawyers, are the right people to make such decisions regarding a woman's body?

Talk back. I'd love to hear your thoughts.