Republicans' march to deny abortion to women even in cases of incest and rape is patently cruel and incomprehensible on its face. But it was never apparent that a male Republican congressman actually believes that women possess such mysterious powers over their bodies that they could self-abort -- or in Rep. Todd Akin's words -- "shut that whole thing down" in instances of "legitimate rape" to prevent themselves from becoming pregnant.
But, yes, that's what Rep. Akin, the Missouri GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate and a six-term member of Congress -- who with Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's vice-presidential nominee, helped co-sponsor the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" -- said he believed in an interview broadcast Sunday on the Jaco Report.
A video clip of Akin's interview on KTVI-TV confirms his words. On Monday, of course, after a barrage of criticism so intense that many in his party demanded that he step down from the Senate race against Missouri incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, Akin said meekly that he "misspoke." He also apologized to anyone he may have offended, which is to say, everyone who knows women have no such power.
His words on tape belie the notion that he misspoke. They show him saying precisely what he believes. In a discussion on his strong views against abortion in all instances, he was asked: "What about in the case of rape, should it be legal or not?" Akin responded:
"Well, you, know, people always want to try to make that as one those things, well, how do you, how do you, slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really where, if it's a legitimate rape, where 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. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child."
There is no misspeaking here -- no sense that he was trying, as he said Monday, to distinguish between legitimate rape and, what? -- some new thing called illegitimate rape. His apology doesn't wash. Science and facts refute him. A 1996 report by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, for example, found that more than 32,000 women became pregnant every year due to rape.
What's wrong is not that Akin misspoke -- he didn't. Rather, it's that, despite his ignorant arrogance concerning the biological process of impregnation, he would presume to control other peoples' reproductive rights. He surely doesn't comprehend the broader emotional and moral imperatives that compel other Americans to make different choices than he might make with regard to personal reproductive decisions.
That is why he should step down from the Senate race. His ideology and opposition to women's reproductive rights is not based on medical science and women's well-being. It is based on absurd notions. Of course, he's not alone in that regard. If he were, the Republican-controlled House would not have passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act last year by a 251-175 margin. The bill, if it were to become law, would have wide ramifications on health care providers, insurance companies and individual taxpayers relative to a range of reproductive services. Fortunately, the Senate rejected it.
The only reason a chorus of Republicans is now urging Akin to quit his Senate race is their concern that his unbelievably errant view of a woman's biology could hinder their party's success in swing states in November. Romney's campaign muffed the call, however, by initially issuing a bland disagreement with Akin's view before being compelled to voice more serious concern. That should make women as wary as Akin's naked views, and those of other Republicans like Ryan.