That was quick!

The Republican Senate candidate in Missouri rejects a rape exception to anti-abortion laws because unnamed “doctors” told him that pregnancy rarely results from “legitimate rape.” Immediately goes from odds-on favorite to 2:1 underdog.

1. Wingnut GOP Senate candidate* answers a question about abortion in the case of rape by saying that he “understands[s] from doctors’ that pregnancy is “really rare” in cases of “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”(Most recent paper estimates 32,000 rape-created pregnancies per year.)

2. The Romney-Ryan ticket runs away from the candidate.

3. The candidate backs off his “offhand comment.” He “misspoke.” Doesn’t explain how he invented new biology “offhand,” or when he un-invented it.

4. Intrade odds of Claire McCaskill’s re-election go from 3:2 against to better than 2:1 on.

We’ve come to accept as a reality that voters won’t punish wingnut candidates for saying wingnutty things and inventing scientific “facts” to suit their prejudices. But maybe that’s no longer true.  Kudos to Talking Points Memo for making this a national story quickly.

* Yes, he’s against federal aid to student lunches, thinks that the student loan program is “a Stage III cancer of socialism,” and wants to abolish the direct election of senators. He defends the Ryan plan by falsely claiming that “Obamacare ends Medicare.”

Footnote Yes, the abortion exception makes hash of the entire right-to-life case. So, his absurd biology aside, Akin’s stance (and Paul Ryan’s former stance) makes more moral sense than the more politically acceptable ban with a rape-and-incest exception. That’s life in the big city.






Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

22 thoughts on “That was quick!”

  1. Yes, the abortion exception makes hash of the entire right-to-life case

    Thank you. This needs to be repeated and repeated.

    I always felt Sarah Palin’s “no exceptions” position was the only respectable thing about her.

    1. Ronald Dworkin’s book on abortion (among other things), “Life’s Dominion,” refutes this particular argument (that “the abortion exception” makes no moral sense) pretty successfully, to my mind. Perhaps Akin’s stance is more in-line with a particular strain of right-wing activist rhetoric, but I would agree with Dworkin that there is a coherent ethical idea (according to Dworkin, MORE coherent than the “fetal right-to-life” argument) expressed in the “exceptions for rape and incest” belief followed by many Americans. For such a position, there is an inherent idea of the “sacredness” of life, and the limits of that sacredness can be socially defined (for one possible argument, fetal life becomes sacred when a hint of intentionality is present, by definition not the case in rape, and by general moral abhorrence of incest, not the case there either). I’m about as pro-choice as a person can get, but I think we’d be better off convincing the majority of pro-life people if we understood said majority’s most plausible reasoning, not just the loudest squawkers, and then tailored our message to the former.

      1. Since I’m not going to read Dworkin’s book – I’m never getting around to books I actually want to read – could you summarize his argument? Because what little you say seems to collapse to “planned pregnancies are people, unwelcome accidents and worse aren’t”. If your argument about abortion is that its use should be restricted to unwanted pregnancies, you’re pro-choice. That can’t possibly be the pro-life argument you say we must respect, but I’m at a loss to see what is the argument.

        And as for Mime’s position: I’ll maybe make some concession towards respecting the consistency of anti-abortion activists who refuse to create an exception for rape and incest when I see them devoting significant energy to helping the young women they seek to trap in pregnancy and motherhood, and to help the children they seek to force into the world – and to help them through government action as absolute and forceful as the abortion bans they seek, not through church charities and the like. So long as their dogma remains “Life Begins At Conception And Ends At Birth” I will retain my low opinion of them.

      2. Adding: anyone who argues for life beginning at conception is in any case an ignoramus and a scientific illiterate, whatever their theology. Something like half of all fertilized oocytes never become pregnancies. If a blastocyst has a human soul (and it definitely can’t be a human being by any other definition, no more than a teratoma can), then God is the biggest murderer of the unborn ever. You can argue about where to put the cut-off in the woman’s right to choose (now at the end of the second trimester, more or less), but you can’t really argue for life beginning at conception.

        1. I think the intentionality refers to the sex act rather than the conception but I also would like to see Sean expand Dworkin’s argument.

          I find it depressing that when I get to heaven half of the resurrected bodies will belong to non-implanted fertilized eggs. Even if they appear in the body that they would have had they will probably not be interesting companions.

    1. It’s respectable in that it makes moral sense, as Mark said above. No one said the position was right.

      1. I’m sorry, I don’t have an “insane but consistent” setting on my outrage and seeing the snow grifter and respectable in the sme sentence sets me off.

    2. Rosa Hernandez is dead and so is the sacred fetus. At least moral consistency wasn’t sacrificed

      1. It’s possible to position “pro-life” views on a coherence axis, something like abortion exception < no abortion exception < prosecute the mother for murder < no state killing (death penalty). One can abhor policy that deprives the mother of bodily autonomy and at the same time concede that some of the prescriptions cohere more than others.

        Recognizing that these positions vary in internal consistency is far from approving of or condoning any of them, or any restriction on abortion. I don't know why that isn't obvious.

        Personally, I'm a bit of a bodily-autonomy absolutist.

  2. A “life begins at conception” abortion opponent either favors life without parole (or the death penalty) for a mother who arranges an abortion as a premeditated murderer, or is a cynical hypocrite with an unprincipled position. I do not understand why these people keep getting a pass on this question.

    1. As far as the “seamless web” nonsense goes, in every meaningful biological sense, a spermatozoan and an ovum are each more alive than a virion (or more esoteric, a prion). The fact that their lifespan is measured in hours rather than years is irrelevant.

      There is certainly a quantifiable change at conception, but there remains a huge chance (more than 50% by some reckonings) that the entity created by that conception (see your favorite Obstetrics text — the numbers are all over the map, partly because of definitional issues) will roll craps in the genetic/developmental lottery and come up a loser: a spontaneous abortion, a/k/a miscarriage.

      I certainly believe that a zygote deserves more respect than an ovum, and a fetus more respect than a zygote, and so on. But I cannot decide what the right level of respect is for someone else. And so, if one holds with Bible Spice and Congressman Akin that a fertilization event creates an entity entitled to the same respect they are, that’s fine. They should give it the respect they believe it deserves. They should not have the right to force others to share their view.

      Isn’t it rather odd that the Right to Life is concerned entirely with life in utero rather than ex utero? Where was Terry Randall when George Bush the Younger decided that fighting a war with Iraq was the morally correct course? Where are James Dobson and Pat Robertson’s voices when their good friend and Most Christian Governor of the Republic of Texas “Goodhair” Perry decides that some convicted prisoner in Texas needs an overdose of State-administered barbituates?

      My wife puts it rather more pithily: If you believe abortion is murder, then don’t get one.

  3. Someone needs to go into my post and close the italics tag. I didn’t mean to wreck the comments section, honest.

  4. Interesting. Most of the Republican base that Governor Romney has been pandering to makes no exceptions to its opposition to abortion rights (except perhaps when one of them, or one of their wives or girlfriends (or both), faces an inconvenient pregnancy herself). A high turnout among the Bible-thumpers, many of whom are already skeptical about voting for a Mormon, will be critical to any Republican hopes of victory.

    Governor Romney has shown no spine in dealing with right wing religious figures such as Bryan Fischer. When the fundies and right-to-birth crowd see that Romney is off the reservation as to permitting abortions in case of rape, their reaction will not be gracious. Romney will then squirm like a worm on a hot brick for a while, and will likely change positions once again.

    If I were advising the Obama re-election effort, I would suggest organizing some strident demonstrations outside the Republican National Convention protesting the current Romney/Ryan position regarding embryos and fetuses conceived by rape. If some of the demonstrators wear clerical garb, that’s ll the better.

    Pass the popcorn!

  5. The speed with which social media can summon up the storm to protest public expressions of misogyny is impressive. It is power. Ask the Susan G. Komen people and Rush Limbaugh. This Akin guy is but the latest.

  6. Of the estimates of 32,000 rape-created pregnancies a year–is there any available brakdown by type of rape? (In other words, how many of those 32,000 pregnancies result from something-defined-as-rape-in-1960?)

    1. The 32,000 number is from a 1996 article ( The data are from a relatively small national sample (n = 4008) of women followed for 3 years. There were a total of 34 rape-related pregnancies, mostly teenagers. As in most cases of rape, the assailant was known to the victim.

      There would be no point to trying cross-classify by “rape as it used to be known.”

    2. Sam! Where are you? Given the intense nihilism of your beliefs, I was rather interested in learning how you would deal with this, uh, situation. I know you don’t give a damn about evidence or even facts so the unfortunate reality that Dennis injected some of those into the, uh, debate, shouldn’t deter you from your quest for TRUTH, should it? Enlighten us.

  7. Todd Akin is a decent, honorable man and a good Christian, who’ll be a great addition to the US Senate. Oh, wait, I misspoke. I meant to say that he’s a hateful moron whose cultivated ignorance and utter lack of morality is a disgrace to the GOP and humanity.

  8. I’m pro-choice, vehemently so, but if I weren’t, I’d brook no exception for rape. We don’t go around killing the _born_ children of rape, as they are blameless for their origins.

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