Juices and secretions

    Hey, did you know that raped women rarely, if ever, get pregnant? That they have a built-in biological defense against conception that kicks in after the rape is over? That they have special hormonal mechanisms that kill the offenders’ sperm?I did not know these things! But I now consider myself duly enlightened, thanks to a biological tutorial offered yesterday by Todd Akin, the Republican senatorial candidate in Missouri.Akin was on Missouri radio, articulating his opposition to abortion under any and all circumstances, and when the issue of rape came up, he naturally said that raped women should be compelled to bear their rapists’ children. But he insisted that such scenarios don’t really happen anyway. Take it away, Todd:”First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare. If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”Is that a fact! It’s amazing, what these right-wing Republican guys know about women.Indeed, Akin is only the latest of his creed to expound on the majority gender in this fashion. Apparently it has long been an article of faith among male anti-abortion absolutists – a worldview, as it were – that raped women don’t get pregnant. Way back in 1980, an attorney named James Leon Holmes (today he’s a federal judge, appointed by George W. Bush) declared in writing: “Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.”Eight years later, Pennsylvania Republican Stephen Freind, a top abortion foe in the state legislature, insisted that the odds of pregnancy are “one in millions and millions and millions.” How come? Because the rape experience causes a woman to “secrete a certain secretion” that kills sperm.A Republican state lawmaker in North Carolina, Henry Aldridge, said sort of the same thing in 1995: “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. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”Wait, “the juices don’t flow”? But Freind insisted that raped women “secrete a certain secretion.” Whichever. Todd Akin said yesterday that raped women just “shut the whole thing down,” and I guess that implies some kind of juice secretion, or maybe it’s the opposite. Whatever. Akin may be interested to learn that the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecologists disputes the existence of a female shutdown process; in a 1996 study, it found that “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency,” to the tune of 32,100 times a year. (On the other hand, Akin would probably not be interested, since the study is grounded in science.) Our latest right-wing expert on gal biology actually has a darn good chance to become the next senator from Missouri. (Is this a great country, or what?) Akin is a veteran House Republican, and he has enjoyed a modest poll lead over the endangered Democratic incumbent, Claire McCaskill. Who knows, maybe his rape disquisition won’t damage him at all – Missouri has been trending rightward, especially on social issues – but the odds are decent that it will. Drinking the Kool-Aid of the lunatic fringe is not good politics.Akin seemed to realize yesterday that he may have said something a tad nutty, if only because of the storm that it provoked (especially on social media, where some Republican activists demanded that he quit the Senate race). He issued the requisite clarifying statement, stressing his “empathy” for rape victims. He also said “I misspoke,” without saying what it was he misspoke about, or whether he has any cognitive understanding that he in fact spoke from the depths of ignorance.”I misspoke” is an empty phrase anyway. In translation, it means: “I have nothing to apologize for.”But forget Akin’s prospects. The real issue is whether his remarks will further alienate women voters from the GOP. Mitt Romney is already on the losing side of a gender chasm – trailing Barack Obama among women by a whopping 15 percentage points in the latest bipartisan NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll – which is why he felt compelled yesterday to throw Akin under the bus. His campaign said: “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”One big takeaway from that terse sentence: Paul Ryan has been housebroken. As a Romney underling, he’s now on record supporting abortions for rape victims – whereas, in reality, he and Akin had been in lockstep in the House as absolutist foes of abortion in all circumstances. Worse yet, he and Akin were co-sponsors on a failed House Republican effort to draw legal distinctions between what they called “forcible rape” and…uh…other kinds.Anyway, it’s understandable that Romney would want to distance himself from Akin. Lest we forget, these have been banner years for GOP misogyny, what with all those Republican males in Washington and in state legislatures using government to invade the most intimate realms of women’s health. The bottom line: If the GOP is going to keep waging a war on women, its foot soldiers should at least have a clue how women’s bodies work.——-Speaking of Romney and Ryan, their decision to take on Medicare in the midst of a presidential campaign can be read two ways: Either they have a lot of guts, or their stark raving nuts. My Sunday newspaper column.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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