Rapes, Congressperson William Todd Akin and Free Speech Under the Constitution

It is outrageous for the Republican establishment to demand Congressperson Todd Akin end his bid for a Missouri Senate seat for his “legitimate rape” statement. He was merely expressing an opinion and did not engage in foul, racist or overtly sexist language. He stated bizarrely that in cases of “legitimate rape,” a woman cannot get pregnant. While there is no medical evidence supporting such a statement, there has been in the popular culture for years a misbegotten belief that forcible rape–is there any other?–does not lead to pregnancy. Congressperson Akin in following his legislative history does differentiate between various forms of rape: real or imagined as it were in his effort to force unwanted births upon women. Yet his reference to “legitimate rape” could have meant rapes that occurred and not consensual sex in which a woman claims a rape in order to get an abortion funding through the Great Society programme of Medicaid. Again, his opinion reflects a highly conservative and orthodox view of woman’s alleged secondary-sexual status and a cavalier approach to women who are violated: yet to deny the Missouri voters a chance to vote for a major party candidate would be a chilling sanction of protected speech. As one who was severely punished for ethical, antiwar dissent ten years ago, I almost always support the rights of individuals to engage in controversial speech without sanctions, reprimands and other forms of punishment.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a hypocritical Democrat only concerned about keeping her seat in the Congress, is hardly a desirable candidate either. She was an unofficial go to person in the early days of the Obama administration. She was a forceful and articulate spokesperson for the president’s agenda. Then she began to have doubts about such an elevated position given the increasingly reddish glow of Missouri politics and decided to skip the Democratic National Convention and adopted a Romney-like run from herself. Whether she is preferable to Akin is not the point: the right of a candidate, duly elected in a primary election, to run in the general election IS the point.

So leave Tea Party activist Akin alone. Attack the Member of Congress’ Tea Party right-wing social agenda. Use his statement to explain what rape is and why women under any and all circumstances should have the right to an abortion. Explain why Roe v Wade must be upheld and that the freer women are to control their bodies, the freer the society is to advance a progressive agenda with not only women’s rights but also human rights in general.

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