Monday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow looked at Missouri candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Todd Akin (R)’s comments regarding what constitutes a “legitimate rape” and his assertion that a woman’s body has a way of stopping a pregnancy that results from an assault. As extreme as Akin’s remarks were, they reflect the opinions of an alarming number of Republicans, and have for years.
The head of Arkansas Right to Life, Judge James Leon Holmes wrote in 1980 that pregnancies by rape are as rare as “snowfall in Miami.” He believed, like Akin, that women’s bodies excrete chemicals that decrease the likelihood of pregnancy, and therefore anti-abortion laws need not make exceptions for the victims of rape and incest. He received a lifetime appointment to the bench under Pres. George W. Bush.
In 1988, Pennsylvania state Rep. Stephen Freind, (R-Delaware County) said in a radio interview that the odds are “one in millions and millions and millions” that a woman could get pregnant from rape because the trauma of rape causes a woman’s body to “secrete a certain secretion” that allegedly kills sperm.
North Carolina Republican state legislator Henry Aldridge made similar remarks in 1995. In cases of rape, he said, “the juices don’t flow.” To get pregnant requires “a little cooperation.”
The examples of this kind of junk science go on and on, all of it from Republicans, who use the belief as a reason to deny women abortions.
“No matter what you say, you must have wanted it if you got pregnant,” paraphrased Maddow. The real-world impact of the belief is that once again, women are denied control of their own bodies. The whole need for this “fake science,” she said, is so that Republicans can say that women who claim to be pregnant from rape must be by definition lying. To get pregnant purportedly requires “a little cooperation.”
As the Republican Party has “slipped its moorings” and tacked right over the last few years, Maddow said, this school of thought, that abortion law need not make exceptions for victims of rape and incest, has become mainstream Republican policy. Former vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) was on record as being against exceptions for rape and incest.
Other prominent Republicans who have campaigned against abortions rights for rape and incest survivors have included Sharron Angle, who ran for U.S. Senate in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell from Delaware, who, like Angle, ran and lost, Rand Paul from Kentucky, who ran and won election to the Senate, and a host of others, all Republicans.
This is not an outlier opinion, she argued, but is actually “the new Republican normal.” The so-called “fetal personhood” laws, which outlaw all abortion and ultimately some forms of birth control, are an extension of this philosophy.
Seven states, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Indiana have passed laws that aggressively strip away rights that victims of rape and incest previously had under the law.
House Resolution 3, the third bill passed by the newly elected Republican-majority Congress in 2011 not only targeted the rights of rape and incest survivors, but sought to narrow the concept of rape to only include so-called “forcible rape,” a law that current vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) helped co-write. Ryan was also the author and co-sponsor of a national “personhood” measure.
New York magazine writer Frank Rich joined Maddow later in the segment. Rich said that it’s probably too late for the Republican Party to decide if they want to be the standard-bearers for this kind of thinking about women’s reproductive rights. He contended that the argument already happened during the Sandra Fluke controversy, in spite of the fact that many pundits and Romney surrogates said that the flap over contraception and women’s health issues would die down.
“But it keeps popping up,” he said, “because this is actually the position of the party.”
Watch the clip, embedded via MSNBC, below: