Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rape, stupidity and N.C.

(Updated, 2 p.m.) Missouri Rep. Todd Akin isn't the first politician to grab hold of a national news cycle or two by suggesting that victims of "legitimate rape" don't get pregnant. That honor resides closer to home, in Raleigh, where 17 years ago, N.C. Rep. Henry Aldridge decided to play doctor during a debate over abortion funding.

As the Observer's Carol Leonnig reported in a front page story on April 21, 1995:
First-term lawmaker Henry Aldridge stunned the statehouse in a debate on abortion funding Thursday when he made this startling claim: Women can't get pregnant when they're raped.

"The facts show that people who are raped - who are truly raped - the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work and they don't get pregnant, " said Aldridge, 71, a Republican representative from Pitt County.

He made the remark at a morning budget meeting, while arguing that the state didn't need its $1.2 million abortion fund for rape victims.

And that statement sent several legislators and lobbyists - especially women - into a daylong fuming session. Some stalked out of the committee room after he finished speaking. Others sidestepped Aldridge on the House floor.

Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, scoffed on the elevator: "He's a dentist. He shouldn't be talking below the belt."

The news cycle is different now, and the digital universe is quicker to display and fillet the dumb things people say. But Aldridge, a first-termer from Pitt County, saw his remarks beamed from coast to coast. It took a couple of days - an eternity in response time now - for him to apologize. He called his remarks "stupid," but then made the mistake of talking some more. "I think all the girls were offended - well not all the girls - just the ones who would have taken issue with me anyway," he said.

The nationwide reaction, for the most part, was a bemused shake of the head. Part of that, for sure, was the perpetually low bar of expectations the country had for the South (and Southern politicians.) Part of it was that, unlike Akin, Aldridge was merely a state rep from a rural county.

Akin, on the other hand, could win or lose a Senate majority for the GOP, which is why he has been denounced so thoroughly from Republicans, who are pushing hard for him to drop out of his race against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. (Update, 2 p.m.: He says definitively that he's staying in.)

But Akin's comments are weightier for a bigger reason. His characterization of "legitimate" rape echoes many who wrongly believe that there are distinctions to make between forcible rape and statutory or date rape - and that those who endure the latter are somehow less of a victim. That thinking has found its way into recent anti-abortion legislation, in which Republicans have argued against exceptions for rape because they might be abused by women who didn't suffer "legitimate" rapes.

Akin is against any exceptions for rape in abortion legislation. So is vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. According to the New York Times, the two worked together in the U.S. House on a bill that would narrow the definition of rapes so Medicare would pay for fewer abortions for poor women.

Henry Aldridge was reelected in 1996, by the way, and left office two years later. He died in 2002. Todd Akin, thus far, has shown little inclination to leave his Senate race, although party leaders usually get their way in these situations. But whether Akin stays or goes, the dangerous thinking behind his words remains. Not the foolish stab at physiology that will fade from memory, as Aldridge's did, but the extremism that is very much alive in abortion legislation.

Peter St. Onge

17 comments:

Wiley Coyote said...

...you can't fix stupid.

Bill said...

Thanks, Peter. I was unaware of Aldridge's comment and unaware that people actually believed the mythology of different types of rape.

It's a sad statement this level of ignorance still exists in 2012.

Larry Comrades said...

Good connection.

Notorious L.E.V. said...

Un####in believeable. No one is this stupid. Conservatives are riding a tidal wave that will take back everything this November, and this absolute complete idiot says something like this? He had to have been paid off to say something that dumb. There is no other explanation.

DugN34 said...

REALLY??? He was paid off? No, Conservatives are riding the emotional high of thinking they are on the high ground. Thats what happens when you drink too much kool-aid. Too much of a sugar high, being in love with yourself and thinking that everything you say and believe is right for everyone. No complaints here because with the GOP ready to roll out their platform, especially when it comes to abortion and at this time it doesn't appear to have any exceptions for rape or incest, they will show their true colors for even an idiot to see. That should wake those kool-aid drinkers enough to realize when the GOP and TP talk freedom and liberty they mean it but only if its the same freedom and liberty they believe in. Which it isn't...imagine that.

Skippy said...

And the yellow journalists will report one peep about this:

Democratic Congressman caught having Oral Sex with 17-year old Boy In Bushes

August 20, 2012 Inside the News, Media

Caught: Police revealed that a Minnesota’s Representative Kerry Gauthier had a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy
After police revealed that a Minnesota lawmaker had a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy, both Republicans and Democrats have banded together to ask Representative Kerry Gauthier not to seek re-election.

Bill said...

Skippy:

The Minnesota story has been well-published in all of the MN, IA and WI newspapers, Huffington Post, TPM, MSNBC,etc. It's been out for a few days.

One big difference is the MN rep holds a state seat, and is not running for the United States Senate.

Tim said...

What Biden has been spewing is far more blog worthy...but ignored...imagine if Ryan said what Biden has lately. Observer would go bonkers

Mike said...

Hey Skippy: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/08/20/3467401/minn-lawmaker-urged-to-step-aside.html

Soulsay said...

The age of consent in Minnesota is 16. It really shouldn't be a big deal.

kantstanzya said...

You are making the leap between some idiot's comments about what constitutes "legitimate" rape and if rape can produce a pregnancy and people who legitimately think abortion is the taking of a human life....two very different things. And then naturally you go on to connect the false premise to Paul Ryan who denounced the comments and wants Aiken to quit.

Barack Obama supported legislation to promote doctors finishing off a botched abortion...where the baby was born, breathing and could be saved. Partial birth abortion.

Which side is it again that has the extreme views Mr. St Onge?

Mark Caplan said...

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.)is a member of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

J said...

DugN34 said, "No, Conservatives are riding the emotional high of thinking they are on the high ground. Thats what happens when you drink too much kool-aid. Too much of a sugar high, being in love with yourself and thinking that everything you say and believe is right for everyone."

And I assume you are convinced there is not a liberal in the universe that is ever guilty of this?

BOTH parties are guilty of this.

My guess is that people that hold Akin's view do not personally know anyone who has been raped. I personally know 5 women who have been. Akin is absolutely wrong; there is no such thing as different types of rape. Rape is rape, period.

Naturally, everyone who is not a conservative or Republican is screaming at the top of their lungs that Akin's comments mean that everyone who is ideologically conservative or a registered Republican feels exactly as he does. Of course that is complete nonsense. Akin is a fool; that doesn't mean all conservatives or Republicans are.

JennAMom said...

Dear Todd Akin: You did not mis-speak. You did not use "ill-conceived" words. You said exactly what you thought. While Romney, Ryan, and pretty much all the rest of the GOP have denounced your ridiculous comments and want you to fall on your sword, I hope you stay in the race. The longer you stay in, the harder it will be for Ryan to distance himself from the bill you and he sponsored last year, regarding this exact issue. (The one where you wanted to redefine rape, because clearly you DO believe that rape is not just rape, there are different degrees of "legitimate".) And the two of you deserve to be painted with the same brush, because you're both clueless men who want to be in charge of decisions that should be left up to women and their doctors. The republican party and the people of Missouri and these United States deserve better leaders.

ABW said...

People stating that this was just a way for to drag Ryan into this need to read HR 3 an amendment to the Hyde amendment. He also tried to pass 4 personhood bills that states life begins at conception and therefore cannot be aborted. Look at the fact that HR 3 wants to penalize private insurance companies that offer abortion coverage. Guess who co-sponsored the bill. There are plenty stupid liberals running around but none are more dangerous than the term "conservative" Republican. Why is my health decisions anyone's business? For ever father, brother or husband do you really want these extreme views governing your female relatives choice?

copdsux said...

How/when did govenment become involved in what a woman does to, or with, HER body become their business.

Can't imagine how "cowed" their wives or girlfriends must be.

Unknown said...

I'm interested in knowing if he was re-elected after that. Did he run again?