Since the Akin rape comments story seems to have reached a fever pitch, let me just say that I think the man is politically tone-deaf and probably should leave the race for that reason alone. The battle for the Senate is too important to leave to people who can’t present coherent thoughts in a coherent fashion, and who hand outrageous sound bites to the opposition on a silver platter.
There are two problems with Akin’s remarks. The first is his bizarre phrase “legitimate rape,” which appears to imply that some rape could be okay (i.e. “legitimate”). The second is his suggestion that getting pregnant through rape is nearly impossible because in “legitimate rape” a woman’s body has some sort of built-in protection that rejects the pregnancy.
When I first heard this story, I thought Akin’s remarks to be so surpassingly weird that two possible explanations came to mind. The first was that Akin holds offensive and fantastical ideas about rape. The second is that there was some at least semi-rational explanation for what he said.
Working on the latter theory, I Googled a bit. It didn’t take but a moment to find this piece on the subject at a site called Physicians for Life. The gist of the argument is that, in what is ordinarily referred to as “forcible rape” (Whoopi Goldberg’s “rape-rape” by another name) as opposed to, for example, statutory rape, the woman is under stress and is therefore less likely to become pregnant.
There’s little doubt that’s what Akin meant by his remarks (here’s more background on the history of the medical arguments behind them). But it sounds as though he’s implying that woman who get pregnant from rape weren’t “legitimately” raped, a toxic assertion.
What’s more, even if it were true that stress reduces the number of pregnancies that would have otherwise been expected to result from rape—and it’s not at all clear that it’s true—how would the relative frequency of rape-induced pregnancies matter? There is no question that some women become pregnant through rape, and anyone recommending policy connected with abortion (whether pro or con) needs to deal with that particular population.
As for whether stress actually does help to prevent pregnancy, as Akin appears to be alleging, the jury’s been out an awfully long time on that one, with no end in sight.
Akin will be going on the air to say his mea culpas to the voters, and to try to explain himself. It remains to be seen whether they’ll buy his story, but interestingly enough, so far the polls haven’t budged.
[ADDENDUM: DrewM at Ace's thinks the polls are spurious, and agrees that Akin needs to go:
PPP has a poll out showing Akin still leading by 1. Alas, it's total bull. Almost as if Democrats want to keep Akin hanging in there. Even if were a legit poll, it's early and 1 point is within the margin of error. How do you think it will look after a couple of weeks of pounding with no Crossroads or national GOP money in the game?
If Akin stays in and we are one vote short on in the Senate then he and John Roberts will have saved ObamaCare. Great.
One last thought. This whole notion of we have to be loyal to guys like Akin is nuts. He broke the faith by putting a slam dunk win in danger. We owe him nothing. ]