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In merely thirty-eight seconds, Republican representative Todd Akin of Missouri revealed an incredibly ignorant and offensive perspective on rape and its potential consequences. When asked if abortion should be permitted in the case of rape, Akin, currently the state’s republican nominee for the Senate, dismissed pregnancy as a result of “legitimate rape” as a rarity. Akin did not expound on what constitutes “legitimate rape” versus “non-legitimate rape,” but his distinction implies that the estimated 32,101 pregnancies as a result of rape were somehow or another not born of a real crime. Akin goes on to say that doctors have informed him that the female reproductive system “shuts down”  in the event of rape, and thus pregnancy as a result of rape is a rare occurrence.

As the LA Times reports, women’s rights advocates have since spoken out against Akin’s remarks. Among them is Gloria Allred, who cited Akin’s ill-informed views on biology and hierarchization of rape as dangerous:

“Sometimes it’s child rape, sometimes it’s stranger rape, sometimes it’s acquaintance rape, but whatever you call it, it is rape. For him to put misconceptions into the marketplace of ideas, this is dangerous.”

Mike Huckabee, however, defended Akin’s remarks on his radio program, citing people such as Ethel Waters and James Robinson as admirable human beings who were the result of forcible rape. In an effort to shine a positive light on Akin’s statement, Huckabee also shows little sensitivity to the potentially traumatic after-effects of rape or sexual assault by focusing on chance positive outcomes. Though by citing extraordinary people as products of rape, Huckabee does contradict Akin’s statement that “legitimate rape” does not often result in pregnancy.

The Onion satirized Akin’s absurd viewpoints in a recent article. The article quotes a fictional woman who has become pregnant after what she thought was rape, but is now “relieved” to learn it was not, though her words are ridiculous, they are perhaps what people such as Akin believe to be true of what constitutes “legitimate rape”:

“Now that I know the truth, I realize none of the telltale signs of legitimate rape were there at all,” mused Byers, noting that her body did not in any way shut down but in fact continued to register excruciating pain throughout the entire cruel ordeal. “I must have at least subconsciously wanted it—otherwise, the sperm wouldn’t have been able to enter my body.”

Rep. Todd Akin: No pregnancy from ‘legitimate rape’ [LA Times]

Pregnant Woman Relieved To Learn Her Rape Was Illegitimate [The Onion]

As I said before, I would try to post this week’s Doonesbury comics on abortion as I found them. Well I found all of them, so here they are:

Look at All of Those Banned ‘Doonesbury’ Abortion Comic Strips [Blackbook]

Previously: Doonesbury Tackles “State-Sponsored Rape

Cartoonist Gary Trudeau has come under fire for a comic strip that critiques the state measures to restrict abortion access. The storyline slated for this week’s Doonesbury comic follows a woman attempting to procure an abortion in Texas where she meets slut-shaming and is forced to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound. Papers such as the Kansas City Star and the Los Angeles Times have chosen not to publish the comic in the usual section, and will instead move it to the op-ed pages due to its content. As Trudeau told the Guardian, this move from the comic pages will diminish the strip’s readership. He also defends his choice to use his comic to critique the recent impositions on reproductive freedom:

Trudeau wrote: “Ninety-nine percent of American women have or will use contraception during their lifetimes. To see these healthcare rights systematically undermined in state after state by the party of ‘limited government’ is appalling. “In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women’s health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity.”

I think it is extremely commendable of Trudeau to use his medium to tackle abortion restriction. The steps some states have taken recently are completely absurd and infringe on women’s rights to control her own body. As this strip shows, they are based in moral ideologies that shame women’s personal choices, rather than in any interest for her health or well-being. I hope papers have the bravery to print this comic rather than censor it, even in the face of its controversial content.

I will try to post the remainder of the comics in this series if I find them. If anyone sees them, please shoot us an email!

Doonesbury strip on Texas abortion law dropped by some US newspapers [The Guardian]

“Women’s health takes a backseat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.”

Contraception and access to it has been a huge issue in recent US politics, buy why is it such a hotly debated topic (between some)? Why is there such conflict over providing affordable contraception?

Conservatie radio host Rush Limbaugh has finally put the reason for such discomfort over affordable contraception into the the open: People are uncomfortable with women having sexual freedom. It all comes down to slut-shaming.

As shown in the video above, Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committe on women’s health and contraception. Following this, Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitue.” Limbaugh’s disgusting words against Fluke have since received a huge amount of media attention. Here is an excerpt of some his language, via the Huffington Post where you can listen to an audio clip of it:

“So the woman comes forth with this frankly hilarious claim that she’s having so much sex – and her buddies with her – that she can’t afford it,” Limbaugh continued. “And not one person says, did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have?”

In addition to the publicity Limbaugh has incurred, his hateful speech has brought upon some backlash. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has condemned Limbaugh’s words, Obama has personally called Fluke to offer support, and advertisers have even pulled spots from Limbaugh’s programming. As New York Magazine points out, in calling Fluke a “slut” Limbaugh has finally put the underlying reason for the contraception debate into the open, thus eliciting a huge mainstream media response:

I suspect it’s because it almost feels like a relief to have the bile out in the open, instead of in a coded subtext as it has been in the recent debate surrounding women’s contraception.

He has shown that he believes that women’s sexual choices are a public, governmental issue. His words show that he is afraid of a woman who chooses to be in control of her health and sexual choices, and thus he must belittle her.

The long-term effects of Limbaugh’s words remain to be seen. He has lost advertisers, but he is not the only one who has rallyed against contraception. Republican Nominee hopeful Rick Santorum has made it a centerpiece of his campaign to make judgement calls on other people’s sexual practices. Perhaps his stances against sexual freedom will be subject to backlash as well, or the slut-shaming mentality underneath them will be made visible. Fluke has demonstrated incredible bravery in speaking out in favor of women’s health, and I can only hope others will follow in her path.

Thanks to Lily for the tip.

Rush Limbaugh On Sandra Fluke, Obama Call: Having ‘So Much Sex’; Parents Should Be ‘Embarrassed’ (AUDIO) [Huffington Post]

Why Is Everyone Paying So Much Attention to Rush Limbaugh? [NYMag]

Rush Limbaugh’s ‘slut’ comment draws rebukes from all sides [LA Times]

Much of the United States legislature has as of late been bent on restricting women’s access to abortion. While neither the federal nor state governments can exactly overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal, conservatives can do everything in their power to put huge impositions on women who seek abortions and doctors who provide them. The message is that the conservative government wants to control the movement of female bodies.

A recent development in various states’ attempts to restrict abortion rights is the imposition of an ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion, and the image must be made clearly visible to the seeker by the doctor providing the abortion. As Talking Points Memo reports, Virginia and Alabama’s recent bills mandate that a woman potentially go through a very invasive procedure to produce the clearest image of the fetus:

The one particularly contentious point has been that these bills require a woman to receive whichever type of ultrasound provides the best picture of the fetus — which, since women typically get abortions early on in the pregnancy, means that the most effective ultrasound is transvaginal, an invasive procedure that opponents of the measure decried as “state-sponsored rape.”

This bill would have asked doctors to place a foreign object (the one pictured above) into a woman’s body without her consent. This is, in effect, rape. It did not pass, but it is an indicator of just how far state’s will go to make abortion as difficult, and even potentially traumatic, as possible.

An amended version of the bill passed in the Virginia legislature, which makes the trans-vaginal ultrasound optional, however not without other equally restrictive and imposing measures:

The new law requires a 24-hour waiting period after the ultrasound, in addition to the one already mandated by the state before an abortion to begin with. The law also requires that the doctor give a detailed verbal description of the image or show it to the woman. “All of these requirements are pretty awful, and they are getting lost in the shuffle in the outrage over the vaginal ultrasound,” Nash said.

A handful of other states are also attempting to restrict abortion and contraceptive rights, such as through imposed waiting times and personhood bills. Jezebel provides a run-down of some the measures, some of which have thankfully not been passed through legislature.

Abortion rights and contraception have been a topic of much debate in the current US Presidential election. The major Republican nominees see it is within their power to make judgment calls concerning women’s bodies, thereby removing the individual’s right to choose. In this interview with Piers Morgan, for example, Ron Paul shows that he is completely insensitive to the potential needs of a recent rape survivor. Without any consideration for their individual circumstances or the recent trauma they have just experienced, Paul believes any female victim of rape must immediately get to a hospital for a shot of estrogen in order to prevent pregnancy and conform to his personal beliefs on abortion and conception.

Contrary to what Morgan says, it is not actually completely unlikely that Paul’s daughters will face rape considering that one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

Perhaps a new law ought to be that abortion is not simply legal, but accessible and provided without judgment.

Thanks to Renee for the tip. 

Vaginal Ultrasound Bills A Smokescreen, Say Pro-Choice Groups [TPM]

Your Depressing Digest of Proposed State Anti-Abortion Laws [Jezebel]

 

The New York Times reports that all Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee  have voted against a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The law was first instated in 1994 to provide federal funding to fight domestic violence and sexual assault. It has since expanded to protect victims of other forms of assault and violence, such as stalking and dating violence, through reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005. The new draft up for reauthorization was in fact introduced to the committee in part by Republican Senator Michael Crapo of Idaho, yet his fellow party members on the Senate Judiciary Committee have unanimously voted against the new draft. As the Times reports, they take issue with the bill’s language in aid of minority groups:

The Republican opposition seems driven largely by an antigay, anti-immigrant agenda. The main sticking points seemed to be language in the bill to ensure that victims are not denied services because they are gay or transgender and a provision that would modestly expand the availability of special visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence — a necessary step to encourage those victims to come forward.

The bill passed the committee nonetheless, but now needs to pass through the Senate.  Fighting violence, of any kind, should not be a political issue. It is clear from this committee’s actions however that it is still subject to political biases, evidently in this case due to attempts to aid LGBTQ or immigrant victims.

Here is a full PDF of the proposed law: To reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994

Republicans Retreat on Domestic Violence [NY Times]

Have you ventured to Herman Cain’s website as of late? If you’re a woman, please do because there’s a special section just for you.

GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain has a website with a very special section just for “Women For Herman Cain“. It’s a nice shade of lavender and uses some vaguely frilly cursive font to spell out “Women.” Scroll down for testimonials from presumably real women across America proclaiming their support for Cain. Suffice to say Cain’s presidential run has had some “women problems” due to the countless allegations of sexual harassment against him, and this portion of his site represents a very transparent move on his PR team’s part to rectify that.

I don’t deny nor am I surprised that Cain has female supporters, despite the accusations against him. Interestingly though this section of site has become a playground for his supporters to not just deny these allegations but actively deride the women who’ve come forward to accuse Cain. As reported by Talking Points Memo, some of Cain’s supporters have very strong words for his alleged victims:

“Dear Mrs. Cain, don’t pay attention to these pathetic husbandless women who are jealous of women like you in happy long-term marriages,” a supporter from California writes. “These vindictive women can’t find a husband or keep one. They are like stalkers who try to latch on to any man who shows a bit of kindness or attention to them. When these unstable women come out of the woodwork to make accusations about Herman just say, ‘Honey, get a life, I believe my husband.’ We want you to be our First Lady Mrs. Cain!”

Another post, by a supporter in Georgia, laments how “now because of scheming women that can be swayed by money, attention or whatever else the reason may be, your reputation is at stake – not theirs as it should be. I do not believe these women are victims…I believe you are.”

These are not the only kind of posts that appear on the site; many do not address the harassment allegations at all. These do however represent a very common backlash women in particular may receive in speaking out against sexual harassment. These women face the burden of proof lest they wish to be labeled as crazy or unstable and attention-seeking. The role of victim is afforded to the accused, and the actual victims are vilified. In seeing this, one has to wonder how many more women Cain has harassed who are simply too afraid to speak out.

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