Republicans and rape – again!


    Seriously, what is it about Republican men and rape? Why do these men keep insisting that women impregnated by their rapists should be forced to give birth? And why, in defense of that stance, do they keep verbalizing their ignorance?

    In the Republican National Committee’s recent autopsy of its 2012 election debacle – which happened in part because the GOP was predictably waxed by the female electorate – it rightly urged the party to “improve its efforts to include female voters (and) represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have. There is growing unrest within the community of Republican women frustrated by the party’s negative image and women….Republicans need to make a better effort at listening to female voters.”

    Fine words, predictably ignored. Because what happened yesterday – when Arizona congressman Trent Franks uttered an ignorant remark that can best be described as Todd Akin Lite – was a classic metaphor for the male-centric party’s abiding misogyny.

    It all began when all voting Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee (all of them male, natch) said yes to a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy – with no exception for victims of rape. Granted, this was just another dead-end Republican stink bomb, akin to the one last week that targeted immigrant children; if the abortion-rape bill ever reached the Senate, it would be DOA. But the episode demonstrates anew that Republican men still seem bent on buttressing the party’s negative image among women.

    Franks, a veteran anti-abortion ideologue who hails from a crimson-red Arizona district, authored the bill. And yesterday, when Democrats sought to soften its provisions a wee bit – by carving out an exception for rape and incest victims – he uttered this semi-coherent doozy:

    “When my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject – because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”

    The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low….I did not know that!

    Silly me, I had always been swayed by the empirical studies that show the opposite. As far back as 1996, a report published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology concluded: “Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency.” It said that 32,000 women are impregnated by rapists each year, but warned that the figure was probably a “significant underestimation,” because so many rapes go unreported. Sure enough, a 2012 report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention puts the annual figure at 83,000.

    And another researcher, Jonathan Gottschall, who has studied the issue for decades, reportedly concludes: “The available data gives us no reason to think that conception from rape is rare, or even that it is less rare than conception from consensual intercourse. If anything, the data suggest that tjing go the other way around” – because, as psychologist Gordon Gallup has written, rapists “tend to preferentially target young, post-pubescent females that are in their reproductive prime.”

    “I think that he’s a moron”

    But true believers like Franks (and his fellow Republican males) don’t bother with trifles like science and evidence. He’s consistent, too. He’s been trying to tell women how to run their private lives ever since the ’80s, when, as a state lawmaker, he’d show up for work wearing a tie tack shaped like the feet of a fetus. Fine, that’s his choice. The problem is, he and his male brethren seem to think they have the right to impose their moral framework on impregnated female victims of sexual violence.

    Franks’ dismissal of rape victims, and his ignorance of rape-and-pregnancy stats, are probably not as egregious as Todd Akin’s ignorance of female biology (last year, the doomed GOP Senate candidate said that women can magically identify rapists’ sperm and prevent themselves from getting pregnant); or as witless as doomed GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s advice that rape victims embrace pregnancy as “a gift from God.” But they all share the same moralistic, patriarchal ‘tude.

    Granted, not all Republicans feel this way. Gabriel Gomez, who’s trying to win the open Senate seat in blue-state Massachusetts, sought yesterday to demonstrate that he, at least, is not a sexist pig. Referring to Franks, he said (and yes, this is a real quote): “I think that he’s a moron, and he proves that stupid has no specific political affiliation.”

    Late yesterday, the alleged moron seemed to realize that he had said something insensitive. So he duly trotted out his spokesman to say that he hadn’t actually said what he clearly had said: “The intention was to comment on the number of abortions that occur at the sixth month (of pregnancy) and beyond as a result of rape, NOT the incidence of pregnancy from rape, though I know that’s what’s been reported.” Shame on those reporters for quoting Franks accurately.

    Bottom line: On issues that affect women, Republican men seem incapable of practicing impulse control. Even though they were clobbered by women voters in 2012, they soldier in the same sexist fashion. Franks says what he says. Senator Saxy Chambliss of Georgia says that sexual assaults in the military should be blamed on hormones. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says that the quality of education has dropped because “the mom is in the workplace.” GOP-friendly commentator Erick Erickson says it’s “biology” that men should play the “dominant role” in society. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who shares the belief that raped impregnated women should bear their rapists’ children, said yesterday that he’ll sign a bill requiring that women seeking an abortion must first undergo a vaginal or abdominal ultrasound.

    If Republicans truly wish not to be accused of waging a war on women, they should stop firing artillery.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1



    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal