Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Akin, Republicans, Women, Elders
In yesterday's post I asked that we leave discussion of Todd Akin for another day. That day would be now.
It is important for us at Time Goes By to talk about this because elders are the only people on earth who know first-hand what life would be like if Akin and so many other Republican leaders succeed in rolling back every advance made in women's health issues during our lifetimes.
Certainly you know about Todd Akin by now. He's the Republican representative from Missouri running against Claire McCaskill for the Senate who revealed his monumental ignorance of human reproduction on Monday by telling an interviewer that women cannot get pregnant from rape.
Not only that, he thinks that if pregnancy threatens a woman's life, her physician should have the power of discretion to choose which to save, baby or mother. Here's the Akin video that set off a media/political firestorm on Monday:
Did you catch that Akin believes in degrees of rape. The phrase, “legitimate rape” has now entered the foul lexicon of the Republican attempts to legislate control of women's bodies.
The cable news channels pretty much dropped all other news on Monday and Tuesday while women (and men) throughout the country went ballistic – as they should – over Akin's statement.
It is disaster for the Republican Party which immediately pulled funding from Akin's campaign as a growing number of Republican leaders called for him to withdraw from the Senate race. He refused (which I believe is really good news for his Democratic opponent). President Barack Obama was, of course, asked about Akin's statement:
“Way out there,” is how the president characterizes Akin on the subject of abortion. I'd say “delusional” and question his competency to hold public office where votes that affect the lives of 314 million people are required. But that's just me.
Given the avalanche of media coverage on Akin, the Ryan/Romney campaign at first issued a strikingly short and subdued statement to Huffington Post through a spokesperson, Andrea Saul:
“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”
That's not what Ryan said in the past. From Salon on Monday:
”...the spokesperson’s statement represents a flip-flop for Ryan, who has proposed and supported legislation that would outlaw abortion with no exception for rape.
“Ryan has earned a “100 percent pro-life voting record” from the National Right to Life Committee during his 14 years in Congress. NARAL, the pro-choice group, looked at 59 key votes on abortion, and found that Ryan voted the anti-choice position on every single one.”
And do not forget that Ryan co-sponsored with Todd Akin the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a bill that introduced to federal lawmaking the notion of “forcible rape.” As opposed to what other kind of rape? You tell me.
Another Romney spokesperson, Andrea Henneberg, pointedly omitted Ryan's name from her follow-up statement as Akin outrage skyrocketed on Monday:
“Mitt Romney’s position is clear: He is pro-life. He opposes abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.”
Perhaps that position is not as definitive as it sounds (which is always true about Romney, isn't it.) Here is what ABC-TV reported last fall:
”Dogged through the primary by his conservative challengers about his switch from being a pro-abortion governor to an anti-abortion presidential candidate, Romney honed his pro-life position, telling [Diane] Sawyer he wanted the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"'I would love the Supreme Court to say, 'Let's send this back to the states.' Rather than having a federal mandate through Roe v. Wade, let the states again consider this issue state by state, he said.”
And, inevitably, many states would outlaw abortion. Romney, more than any other prominent anti-abortion supporter, should be ashamed of himself. A young relative of his died as the result of a botched, backstreet abortion.
Most elders at Time Goes By have, like Mr. Romney, probably experienced the anguish of unwanted pregnancy, whether ourselves or with a friend or relative. Young people don't have that direct experience of life for women before Roe v. Wade. They don't know about deaths from coathanger abortions that we know – to which we want never to return.
I believe what Romney, Ryan, Akin and all the other men who so closely parse the details of female reproduction want is control over women's bodies. Republicans have been on an especially vicious campaign against women for the past year, but it is hardly new. And it is always Republicans. Always men. With their brutal and cruel attempts to turn women into chattel:
- Redefining rape down
- Excluding all exceptions to abortion
- Killing physicians who perform abortions
- Cutting funding for abortion for poor women
- Defunding Planned Parenthood
- Legislating state vaginal examinations
- Disallowing contraception
- Congressional hearings with no women testifying
Have I missed anything?
In one form or another, this has been going on since Roe v. Wade in 1973. There are a large number of American men who are livid at the Supreme Court decision that together with the advent of reliable contraception removed their ancient "right" to control women's lives by keeping them barefoot and pregnant.
But every now and then, one of those primitives strays so far across the current line of talking points that even his usual compatriots desert him, as happened with Akin. Republican heavyweights piled on, bleating for him to withdraw from the race and it took Akin less than 24 hours to issue a disavowal:
What a pathetic piece of passive-aggressive horseshit. And neither Romney nor Ryan, in response, have made a definitive statement in support of women's reproductive rights.
The only good to come of Akin defying the Republican Party and staying in the race is this: there is a much better chance that enough women in Missouri now know where Akin stands giving Democrat Claire McCaskill a good shot to retain that Senate seat.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Sometimes Fewer Words are Better