Earlier today, Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) claimed that “legitimate rape” does not often lead to pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” This is not the first time the biologically challenged senate candidate tried to minimize the impact of rape. Last year, Akin joined with GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as two of the original co-sponsors of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill which, among other things, introduced the country to the bizarre term “forcible rape.”
Federal law prevents federal Medicaid funds and similar programs from paying for abortions. Yet the law also contains an exception for women who are raped. The bill Akin and Ryan cosponsored would have narrowed this exception, providing that only pregnancies arising from “forcible rape” may be terminated. Because the primary target of Akin and Ryan’s effort are Medicaid recipients — patients who are unlikely to be able to afford an abortion absent Medicaid funding — the likely impact of this bill would have been forcing many rape survivors to carry their rapist’s baby to term. Michelle Goldberg explains who Akin and Ryan would likely target:
Under H.R. 3, only victims of “forcible rape” would qualify for federally funded abortions. Victims of statutory rape—say, a 13-year-old girl impregnated by a 30-year-old man—would be on their own. So would victims of incest if they’re over 18. And while “forcible rape” isn’t defined in the criminal code, the addition of the adjective seems certain to exclude acts of rape that don’t involve overt violence—say, cases where a woman is drugged or has a limited mental capacity. “It’s basically putting more restrictions on what was defined historically as rape,” says Keenan.
Although a version of this bill passed the GOP-controlled House, the “forcible rape” language was eventually removed due to widespread public outcry. Paul Ryan, however, believes that the “forcible rape” language does not actually go far enough to force women to carry their rapist’s baby. Ryan believes that abortion should be illegal in all cases except for “cases in which a doctor deems an abortion necessary to save the mother’s life.” So rape survivors are out of luck.
And, of course, as we learned today, Akin isn’t even sure that “legitimate” rape survivors can get pregnant in the first place.