Is Mourdock’s comment more extreme than Akin’s?

October 24, 2012

Who knew that pregnancy, rape and abortion would become the buzzwords of this election year instead of jobs, jobs, jobs.

Last night in the debate between Indiana’s U.S. Senate candidates, another one of those “Akin-like” comments was made. This time it was Republican candidate Richard Mourdock, who said something that sounds suspiciously like God intends for rape to happen.


Richard Mourdock’s comment on rape draws ire from pro-choice and support from pro-life contingents. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

Mourdock appeared to be choking up as he answered the question on abortion. “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

I’d hate to have to diagram that sentence, but I think he meant that “life” was something God intended to happen, not rape – except that using his logic, it took the rape for that life to be conceived.

How much God micro-manages our lives is something for theologians to argue, along with what power or control God has over the violent and tragic events that occur on a daily basis in our world. That’s something many of us struggle to understand. As a Christian who believes in a loving God, I find it tough to think that God approves of acts of violence that hurt other human beings, even if conception results.

Mourdock prefaced his comment during the debate by saying he was “pro-life.” So is Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri. In August, Akin was asked to step down after he made his comment that in the case of “legitimate rape … the female body has ways to shut that thing down” so pregnancy does not result.

Akin, who actually sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Medicine, got laughed at for his skewed view of female biology, which has been espoused by Dr. John C. “Jack” Willke, founder of the National Right to Life Committee and author of the 1971 “Handbook on Abortion.”

Willke’s views continue to be shared on anti-abortion Web sites, even though medical research has proven him wrong. 

In a 1999 article, he claimed as few as 225 pregnancies resulted from rape each year. But a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology tells a very different story: As many as 32,000 women become pregnant each year as a result of rape. Results from studies about what these women choose to do vary widely: Around 26 percent to 50 percent get abortions, 6 percent to 36 percent give the child up for adoption, and 32 percent to 64 percent raise the child.

Even with those numbers, abortion and incest account for just 1 percent of abortions.

Akin has apologized for “misspeaking” and refused to step down in the  Missouri race, even after GOP party leaders asked him.

And, just as he did with Akin, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is trying to distance himself from Mourdock. “Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

But what is coming to light is the belief that, for those opposed to abortion, the procedure is always wrong. Period. No exceptions, unless it’s to save the mother’s life (and some believe that instance rarely happens with advances in medicine).

Don’t believe that women will automatically vote for Mourdock’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, reaffirmed her support for Mourdock Wednesday morning.  “Richard Mourdock said that life is always a gift from God, and we couldn’t agree more,” she said in a statement. “To report his statement as an endorsement of rape is either willfully ignorant or malicious.”

The Indiana Right to Life PAC chairman Mike Fichter issued a statement after Tuesday’s debate, saying, “We believe that life begins at fertilization and with fertilization comes the right to life as affirmed in the Declaration of Independence.”

Akin has said he’s opposed to abortion; he’s even against the morning-after pill, which he likens to abortion (not so — it’s a birth control pill that prevents or stops ovulation) for rape victims. “I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country,” he said in a radio interview.

Is Mourdock’s comment even more extreme than what Akin said? The Missouri candidate repeated what he believed from anti-abortion advocates. But to say that God approves of violence if it results in life?

It may have been a “misstatement.” It may not be what Mourdock actually meant. But he said it, and those words will haunt him forever — just as a single act of violence against a woman can result in conception, and no matter what decision she makes, whether she chooses to abort or continue the pregnancy, I’m sure it will haunt her the rest of her life.

But her decision should be between her and her God. And would-be legislators need to stay out of it.

Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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