Rape, Abortion and Politics

I live in Missouri. Rep. Todd Akin is my US Congressman. I’ve known Todd very personally since 1989 when our family homeschooled our young children alongside several of Todd’s children. Our families have been socially connected through all these years.

In addition, Todd is a PCA ruling elder and a graduate of Covenant Seminary here in St. Louis. He is a godly family man, a staunch conservative and and a principled politician who is unafraid to bring his Christian faith into the political arena.

All that said, Rep. Akin is the Republican nominee to challenge current Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. He has actually been leading in the polls. Well until now. And just to be clear, this is not really a political post per se. It is more a post about how our Christian beliefs play out in the public sphere.

Over the weekend, Rep. Akin was interviewed by a local reporter (you may remember him from his CNN days). Here is part of the interview:

In one part of the interview, Charles Jaco asked about Akin’s stance against abortion rights even in cases of rape.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy) is really rare” in rape cases, Akin said, according to a video of the interview posted Sunday on YouTube. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

He added: “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.” Source

As one might imagine, a firestorm has erupted and his remarks are making national news. President Obama has weighed in today. There are calls for Akin to quit the race from Dems and Republicans. And today Rep. Akin has made some further remarks:

“As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault.  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.  Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.

“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue.  But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.” Source

I left other remarks which don’t pertain to this issue.

The Romney campaign also released a statement about Rep. Akin’s remarks:

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement. Source

There is much more that could be said. This issue has far reaching political tentacles. But that is not why I bring the subject up.

Here is my question ( and it’s not really about the wisdom of Akin’s remarks): What do you think of the Romney campaign’s reaction to Akin’s remarks? Read again above. Here is the part of the Romney response that troubles me:

“…a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape…”

Contrast that with Akin’s “apology” which included these remarks:

I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue.  But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.

Please try to set aside the Mormonism of Romney. Should Christians be ok with a position on abortion which leaves open the legality of abortion under any circumstances? Rape? Incest? Is this a legitimate Christian stance on abortion?

By the way, I am proudly anti-abortion, in case you are wondering.

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7 comments

  1. Frank

    The only exception I would ever grant is life (not health) of the mother. I subscribe to the logic that human beings do not have the right to take innocent human life. That applies to the mother, doctors, etc not taking the life of the innocent human baby but it would also apply to the innocent human baby not taking the life of the mother. I am fully aware that my position has much potential for abuse because it opens the door for any doctor to routinely claim “life of the mother” as a way to justify abortions so significant safeguards would have to be in place. But, that is the only exception I would ever grant. Rape, incest, health of the mother, etc all punish the innocent baby.

  2. William

    I agree with Frank on this one. The only exception I make is for the life of the mother. I will agree with Akin as well that the perpetrators of a rape need to be punished but not the innocent child (same with incest). The bigger issue is that we need to have a well-thought logical approach to answering such questions. I have noted in recent years that the pro-choice side seems to have realized that they are losing the abortion argument; Therefore, they turn to emotional pleas. Someone who is pro-life is asked about rape, incest, and health of the mother as they realize these are emotionally charged issues, and if not handled sensitively make pro-life individuals come across as cold and uncaring. I would note that the same has been done in the homosexual rights arena. When someone who is for traditional marriage is approached, typically a question will come up, “What if it was your child?” Again, the question is asked because they know if it’s not handled sensitively the individual will come across as uncaring.

  3. Ken Hamrick

    This is such a tough issue. It must be said that Rep. Akin’s remarks were biologically false. There is no excuse for putting rape victims in the shadow of suspicion because they conceive. Such backward superstitious ignorance is unbecoming of any public leader.

    Rape is such a tragic crime that I hesitate to even enter this discussion of what should be done about the child. I can certainly identify with the sense of utter violation and uncleanness, as well as the soul’s cry for justice, that would come with being raped. I can understand how a woman might want to be rid of all that the criminal left behind, child included. I would counsel such a woman to seek comfort in Christ, and seek His will in the matter. But I would not blame her if she wanted the child gone. And when it comes to legislation, where it applies to all, even those who have no hope or comfort in Christ, then the forcing of such women to carry their babies will result in some taking their own life and the child’s with it. As with everything else in life, the only real answer is Christ.

    • frankmor

      Ken, first of all if you do a web search for the topic you will find articles by doctors and other health care practitioners that say that the trauma and stress DOES make pregnancy less likely. You will find other articles saying that is not true. It does not appear that you can make a definitive statement that his comments are biologically false.

      However, Akin didn’t even say they were true. If you listen to his comments he said that doctors told him … In other words he was quoting the doctors not stating his personal opinion. (though it is my guess that that IS his opinion)

      Further if you listen to his comments he was also setting up a straw man because he immediately followed that by saying suppose that doesn’t happen and the woman DOES get pregnant. That was the primary part of his whole discussion that the media is choosing to ignore. What happens if a woman does get pregnant from a rape?

      How is a rape victim that conceives put in the shadow of suspicion? Akin was not condemning the woman in any way. He stated that the punishment should go towards the rapist.

      I agree that rape is a tragic traumatic crime. I too would not “blame” the woman if she wanted the child gone. I can certainly understand those intense feelings.

      However, that is why we have laws. To legislate against intense feelings. As an example say that I get justifiably mad at someone and develop intense feelings such that I want to murder him, the law intervenes and says that “NO” murder is more important than my intense feelings. The law says murder is not acceptable.

      The question is really one of if we really believe that the fetus is a human being at conception and a creation of God. If we believe that (and I do) then we can’t murder the child no matter how traumatic and tragic the cause of conception. The mother and the child are both victims here. Murdering the child punishes it. As Akin said the rapist is the one who should be punished – not the child.

      I do not defend Akins’s use of the word “legitimate.” The media is construing his use of the words as meaning allowable or acceptable. It is clear from the context that he was using the word as if it was an actual or genuine forcible rape as opposed to consensual sex that was later claimed to be rape. He never should have used the word but his context was actually correct. There is a difference between a forcible and thus traumatic rape as opposed to say a statutory rape which might be consensual but still illegal.

      Your last argument that a woman carrying a child might kill herself and the baby is not really logical if you carry it out to its conclusion. Any woman whether raped or not could kill herself and her child. According to the logic expressed in the comment then ALL children should be aborted to stop that possibility. That, of course, is absurd but so is the argument.

      I agree totally that the only real answer is Christ. In the mean time, we must uphold his word and in his word life is created by God and we don’t have the right to terminate innocent life even life created under traumatic conditions.

      • Ken Hamrick

        Frank,

        I’d like to add something to clarify, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on it. You stated:

        How is a rape victim that conceives put in the shadow of suspicion? Akin was not condemning the woman in any way. He stated that the punishment should go towards the rapist.

        By stating that rape rarely results in pregnancy because—if its a “legitimate” rape—the female body has ways of “shutting that whole thing down,” Rep. Akin put under the shadow of suspicion every woman who claims forcible rape and conceives. After all, if it really was nonconsensual, then why did she conceive?—The testimony of her own body would weigh against her credibility under such a view.

        Ken

      • frankmor

        Ken that makes sense. If he wanted to go down that road, I think he could have said something like this: “Some doctors say that trauma and stress of the rape allows some women not to conceive even when they are ovulating…that in some cases the female body shuts down (to use Akins’s words) and the egg is not fertilized. Other doctors disagree. Regardless, assume the woman does get pregnant from the rape whether it is forcible or not. What should we do about the baby who is conceived?”

        A statement like that I believe would have said essentially the same thing and would have been much more acceptable.

        Better still is to not even go that direction but to fully acknowledge the trauma and stress that the woman goes through before talking about the baby. He needed to show empathy and of course he did not.

        Here is an interesting aside. I posted comments on my Facebook page after the establishment Republicans tried to distance themselves from Akin. (don’t even get me started on that one as this should not be a political forum) I had a dear friend reply who was raped about 25 years ago while out running doing marathon training.

        Here is her response to my Facebook post and then my reply back to her:

        She wrote,:
        “I think this is one of those times that it’s important to think about the mental welfare of the victim and how each moment of a pregnancy as a result of a sexual assault would result in the reliving of a violent violation in which any victim will tell you they thought they were going to die. Having lived through a rape and the resulting anguish while waiting on pregnancy and STD testing, NO ONE except another victim cam imagine the horror and fear. I never want anyone making that type of decision regarding my body or mental health.

        I then replied:
        Many of us as your friends were horrified at what happened to you and we tried our best to stand by you at the time the best that we could. I don’t think any of us – especially the males – could fully comprehend and understand what you were going through because we did not experience it ourselves. I know what you went through totally changed your life and the way you responded served as an inspiration to me and to many other people.

        However, I very strongly believe now and did at that time, that a baby conceived – no matter how horrible the circumstances – is still human life. I’m fully aware that at times our society has too often responded incorrectly and has unfairly punished the victims of sexual assault and treated them as if they were the criminals. That is, of course, wrong and should not be tolerated. Comments like the Congressman (who happens to be an acquaintance of mine) made yesterday are unacceptable and show an ignorance of the situation. However, equally wrong is punishing the innocent baby and treating the baby as if it was a criminal and sentencing the baby to death. The rapist is the criminal in this situation and should be treated as such. Both the woman and the baby are innocent victims and should be protected.”

        I hope that my reply showed the proper amount of empathy and concern for the woman while still respecting the right of the baby to live. That is what Todd Akin should have done and then there would not have been any story. For the record, I too know Todd Akin and lived in his area in St, Louis from 1989 to 1996. He was a State Rep then and had not yet run for Congress. I attended Covenant Seminary for a while and was a member of the same church as Todd and Les who started this post. My company transferred me back to Texas in 1996 and I have not had any contact with Akin since then other than to observe his political career from a distance. Currently I teach bible study classes at FBC Forney.

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