What Romney getting the GOP presidential nod didn’t do, what the Paul Ryan veep pick didn’t do, what Donald Trump speaking at the RNC didn’t do, Todd Akin managed to do: Fire up the base . . . sort of. Only thing, when Todd Akin spoke the words, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he fouled his own nest – not because what he said was shocking to the GOP (quite to the contrary), but because what he said framed what the GOP already thinks, packaged the GOP platform neatly into a horrifyingly ugly package for the country to see, and directed a spotlight into the sewer of extreme right-wing minds, including the mind of Paul Ryan, a man who teamed up with Akin to craft some pretty horrible legislation. Akin’s sin was in breaking the Republican version of Omerta.
The nonsensical, ignorant, hostile thinking of the right with respect to womens’ issues, womens’ bodies, became low-hanging fruit, thanks to Todd Akin. Nothing like a little straight-up honesty to terrify the GOP.
This latest dust-up around Todd Akin’s comments would be laughable if ignorance, lack of compassion, and moral corruption were a laughing matter. As Dr. Lauren Streicher noted, aptly, “You let me know if you find the doctor that knows how a uterus knows which sperm to ward off.” Because, look, at the very same time that the GOP is pretending to shy away from Akin and his unapologetic ignorant, extremist rhetoric, the Republican Party is carving out an official platform of “pro-life” seeking a “human life amendment” to the Constitution that would effectively pretend that Roe v. Wade doesn’t exist. In that amendment, there is no exception for rape or incest – which, in essence, is what Todd Akin said, isn’t it? What Akin said mimicked the efforts by the teabagging House (including Paul Ryan) to redefine rape as “forcible rape” only. What Akin said is what Paul Ryan, a man running for the second most powerful office in the country, believes – that is, no exception for rape or incest. When the Republican Party seeks to amend the Constitution, they will once again oppose stem cell research, withdraw funding for any health care which includes abortion coverage, ram “informed consent” down our throats (as if we think it’s a kumquat we have growing in there), require mandatory waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds – all the stuff Todd Akin believes in and Paul Ryan believes in and Mitt Romney may or may not (depending on the day) believe in. This “human life amendment” forms the belief system of the Republicans, and that belief system is exactly what Todd Akin said it is – with no exceptions for denials and walk-backs. Republican Representative Steve King called the attacks on Akin “petty” and “personal,” and, when asked by a reporter “whether a 12-year-old who gets pregnant and does not qualify as being ‘forcibly’ raped should be able to have a federally-funded abortion,” said only that he’d be willing to have a “discussion” around it.
This Constitutional amendment is going to be rolled out, evidently, at the RNC; and one would presume that the top of the ticket, the guy being officially nominated at the RNC, would agree with the platform the GOP is building on. As CNN reported, “The document, crafted Monday in a subcommittee meeting of the Republican Party’s official platform committee in Tampa, is being closely guarded by party officials but was provided to CNN by a Republican source here.” Out of one side of their mouths, Republicans are denouncing Akin for his ignorant and astonishingly insensitive comments about “legitimate” rape; at the same time, these same Republicans are wielding pens, ready to sign whatever “no rape or incest” anti-abortion law is put in front of them.
We can’t turn around without encountering another right-wing antic that displays, in all its glory, the right’s hostility and disregard for women and womens’ experiences. Newsweek, stinging from criticism over an article written by Niall Ferguson about President Obama that wasn’t fact-checked and has been judged blatantly false, even unethical, by many fact-checkers, decided it would be amusing to change the cursor icon on its Tumblr account to a coat hanger, apparently in an effort to mock the notion that women use them to self-abort.
What Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown terms “a big-tent party” – the Republican Party – has become little more than a party of proud misogynists. I can hear it now: ”I’ll call you your end-runs on Roe v. Wade and raise you no exception for rape or incest.” The back-slapping, good old boys club on the right has done its dick-measuring and decided that the more vitriolic the attacks against women and abortion and contraceptives and health issues, the more virile the man. Pro-choice Republicans, such as Scott Brown, pointed out — to no avail — the fact that the Republican Party refuses to recognize anyone who isn’t in lockstep with the Akins and Ryans and Kings, and wistfully noted that the Party needs to recognize that ”you can be pro-choice and still be a good Republican.” But the ever more extreme Republicans have sold their souls, and there’s no going back.
The Susan G. Komen defunding of Planned Parenthood, the Rush Limbaugh “slut” brouhaha, and many other issues have been raked over in the 24-hour news cycle and then forgotten. But not this time. We — as in, those of us who aren’t batshit crazy — are going to have a discussion, public, loud, and very, very personal, about what the GOP stands for. Todd Akin will now be our poster child, along with his counterpart, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan who, along with Akin, “tried to limit abortion with federal taxpayer dollars to those cases of ‘forcible rape.’” The two of them, Ryan and Akin, worked to craft horribly restrictive, cruel, conscienceless, morally corrupt anti-women legislation – including H.R. 212, the “personhood” bill (defining “personhood,” with all its attendant rights, as the moment the sperm and egg collide) – and were it not for Akin’s blunder, this particular dialogue might never have grown legs. The voting public might have continued to think of Paul Ryan as simply a “policy wonk” and numbers nerd, and remained blissfully ignorant of the extremism lurking beneath that boyish countenance.
But have no doubt: We are going to have this conversation. It will be a conversation for serious adults only. So, GOP, it’s time for you to go to your room: Adults are talking.