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Todd Akin’s linguistic errors in regards to a rape exception in abortion laws

There’s no question that Todd Akin stuck his foot in his mouth, but despite his very poor choice of words, and his apparent misunderstanding of the biological workings of a woman’s body after a rape, I think his policy with regard to abortion, even in cases of rape is the right one.

I think his very poor choice of words, “legitimate rape”, shouldn’t be as big of an issue as many are making it out to be. I can’t imagine that anyone honestly thinks he meant there are instances where he thinks rape is “legitimate” as in “acceptable”. Anyone listening to his interview in the context of the question about possible exceptions for rape in abortion laws knew or should have known that he was contrasting cases where women were actually raped as opposed to claiming they were raped when in fact they weren’t.

Rebecca Kiessling, an author, attorney and pro-life speaker, and who was herself conceived in rape, said in a recent interview that Mr. Akin, like other pro-life politicians did a poor job of defending his position, but it is still the right one.

She noted that the problem of trying to determine what is a “legitimate rape” is caused by the “rape exceptions” in many abortion bills and by things like the Hyde Amendment which forces states to pay for abortions for victims of rape or of incest. That obviously gives women who want an abortion an incentive to say that they have been raped even in cases in which they have not. One such example was Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” in the infamous “Roe v Wade” landmark Supreme Court decision throwing out all of the State laws against abortion claimed she had been raped, but later admitted that she had made the story up.

Unfortunately, when there are incentives for people to lie, some people will in fact do so. It is unpleasant to talk about such things and it can be rather tricky to discuss such topics without making a misstep or having people misinterpret what one is saying, or in some cases to even have enemies try to spin what was said into something else entirely.

Congressman Akin shouldn’t have brought that possibility of lying/fraud up during the questioning on his position on abortion in case of rape, even tangentially as he did. It obviously was an extremely poor way of expressing himself, but even more to the point, it was unnecessary to show that his position was in fact the only moral one. As Rebecca Kiessling noted in her interview on Issues, etc., the courts have ruled that the death penalty was “cruel and unusual punishment” for rapists, and therefore prohibited by law. If it is too cruel for even the most vicious of rapists, why should we give the death penalty to innocent children?

I think Mr. Akin’s clumsy attempt at shortening the phrase, “In rapes where the woman is not lying or exaggerating” to “legitimate rapes” was regrettable, but no worse than many other things politicians and celebrities have said that were virtually ignored by the media in contrast to the outrage and vicious attacks leveled at Congressman Akin who quickly apologized for his poor choice of words.

I was more shocked that he thought that a woman’s body had some sort of defense mechanism to help keep her from getting pregnant. But despite his misunderstanding the fact of the matter is that it is relatively rare for women to get pregnant from a rape.

Perhaps that is because many women are on birth control at the time they are raped, or because many are treated at hospitals or doctor’s offices where they can be treated and various methods of contraception like spermicides, cleansings etc. can be used. Even the Catholic Church has issued directives allowing the use of contraceptives in the case of rape (but not abortifacients).

My guess is that he was talking at some political rally where some doctor or nurse said that conception after rape was a rare occurrence anyway, and he tucked that away in his mind misconstruing things such that he felt it was brought about by a natural process in the woman’s body.

But despite his misunderstanding, however that came about, the point he was trying to make in that interview still stands… conception via rape is relatively rare in the U.S.

Of course the fact that it’s rare isn’t really a satisfying reason for prohibiting abortion in cases of rape, and it certainly isn’t the real reason it’s against the moral law. Recognizing and pointing out its relative rarity might help deflect a bit of the attention the pro abortion crowd pays to “the hard cases”, but how common or rare something is is no guide for determining whether it is moral or sinful.

The bottom line is that abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. (1), (2), (3) For a Christian, the ends can never justify the means. We can never use evil means to bring about good ends. The deliberate killing of an innocent human being is inherently evil. Therefore we cannot intentionally kill an innocent human being/commit an abortion to bring about a desired good, such as, but not limited to eliminating a reminder of a brutal rape, allowing one to continue their education, etc.

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that attempts to thwart the natural law – God’s law – is not satisfying in the final analysis. Attempting to remove the memory by killing the child in fact tends to intensify it and burn the memory into his/her mother’s conscience, causing much more agony over time than the rape. (4),(5) But that is a by product of railing against God’s law, not the reason that it is wrong.


  1. When does life begin?Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearings April 23-24, 1980
  2. When do human beings (normally) begin?”scientific” myths and scientific facts
  3. “My intent in every abortion I have ever done isto kill the fetus and terminate the pregnancy.” Leroy Carhart testimony, The Abortionist Speaks – –  Stenberg vs Carhart
  4. Abortion Cures Rape?
  5. Abortion as a Traumatic Experience