Todd Akin’s comments regarding ‘legitimate rape’ swamped media coverage in latest news cycle and even triggered a trending topic on Twitter. As I write, Akin’s staffers allegedly prepare his remarks to withdraw from the Missouri senatorial race –a prudent decision at this point. If you missed it, view the interviewhere and read Politico’s take here.
Yet, Todd Akin’s comments do not appear particularly malicious as if he truly hates women or firmly believes in this ‘legitimate rape’ business. Akinn is not the first and certainly will not be the final politician to make disparaging remarks against women and victims of sexual violence. Todd Akin, veteran politician, is simply on talking points autopilot when it comes to abortion – and that is the true scandal of this controversy for those who oppose abortion.
Akin’s recitation of deceitful ‘science’ and nonsensical logic fits into the troubling narrative of ‘pro-life’ advocacy today. As both aformer board member of Missouri Right to Life and with a 100% voting record from National Right to Life, Akin is well indoctrinated in the emblematic language of ‘pro-lifers.’ Akin even made Planned Parenthood’s list of worst legislators this year–though that organization is similarly troubling in the narrative it presents and the pro-choice lobby similarly needs to reflect as I hope to do in this post for anti-abortion activism.
In similar fashion to lawmakers and leaders nationwide at every level, Akin uncritically addresses a pressing issue. As someone who opposes abortion, I recognize the urgent need to develop pragmatic policies that will eliminate this practice from our nation – both in restricting access and more so in advocating vigorously for social services that help pregnant women and couples.
I also recognize that the self-proclaimed ‘pro-life’ lobby refuses to honestly and pragmatically address abortion for reasons I conjecture have partisan roots.
At present, politicians and lobbyists attempt futile ‘personhood’ amendments and vaginal probing legislation across the US. From both sides, the current language around abortion denigrates women and the respective opposition. Within the ‘pro-life’ movement an acceptable culture emerges with implicit (at times explicit) victim blaming and shaming of women who struggling with their pregnancy. Feminism, a most Christian endeavor, wrongly stands as the foil to Gospel values in the ‘pro-life’ calculus.
If you truly support women and oppose abortion, the status quo of advocacy efforts is shameful.
Politicians should be passing legislation that funds women and children healthcare initiatives, nutritional food assistance, and early childhood education – amongst a dozen other suggestions – with proven records of decreasing abortion rates. Similarly, additional resources should be freed up for legal help, law enforcement efforts, and counseling services to help victims of sexual violence, who are primarily women.
Language needs to reflect, at least for Christians who compose much of the ‘pro-life’ lobby, the extremely pro-woman message of the Gospels. Anti-abortion (and pro-choice advocates) must stop falling into the error of in valuing one life over another – be it the child’s life over the mother’s or the mother’s over the child’s life.
Creating a place where the mother’s health is respected and the unborn child is respected as a human life is a vital priority. Moral quandaries of a medical nature will continue to arise – and at times painful decisions, not pleasing to all, will need to be enacted. Yet, it is the effort of truly defending all life as best as we imperfectly can that matters.
In a few days, the horrendous comments of Todd Akin will dissipate and this Missourian politician hopefully bows out. What will remain is theuncritical, autopilot narrative of the ‘pro-life’ movement that is anti-women, anti-victim, and anti-life in the fullest, truest sense of the Gospels.
The Akin controversy presents all those invested in the abortion issue with a kairos moment that can be seized upon or, once again, denied for the detrimental status quo that watches abortions continue and women villainized. If we really want to care for women’s health, protect children, and decrease abortions, then the anti-abortion advocates must radically alter their medium, their message, and their means.