Let’s be honest. It’s not about the junk science. There were some crazy things said last week but they were crazy with a purpose.
Republican Rep. Todd Aikin (who is a policy blood brother to Republican Reps. Paul Ryan and Chris Smith) effectively said a woman’s subconscious can determine if she gets pregnant. He said as a result of a rape a women’s body can shut down its reproductive mechanisms. Of course this is junk science. And Republicans quickly reacted to the predictable public uproar by castigating Rep. Aikin and seeking his resignation from the race. (Two interesting exceptions to that list were former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and current Congressional candidate Rep. Chris Smith. Huckabee by his stout defense and Smith by his silence.)
But this had nothing to do with Republicans’ regard for science. In fact science is held in very low regard in the Republican party. This is best exemplified by the fact that the Republicans appointed Rep. Aikin to the Congressional Science Committee.
The real subject of Aikin’s discussion was not science but rape. And his real purpose was to delegitimize and trivialize rape. His implication is that, since pregnancies don’t really happen by rape, then it can’t be a real or serious reason for seeking an abortion. (Stated otherwise, a woman seeking an abortion for rape is probably lying about really being raped.) Further, his more insidious point is that there must be degrees and types of rape. Hence there must be ’legitimate’ and illegitimate rapes, etc. Of course this is a merely a logical progression from Rep Chris Smith’s proposal to distinguish ‘forcible rapes’ from, apparently, unforced rapes.
Why is it necessary to distinguish between types of rape? There must be a reason. And the reason is simple. Abortion is a simply defined act. If there are types and degrees of rape then rape is not a simply defined act. Rape is not rape. There must be a relative scale where some rapes are worse and some better than others. Some rapes might be important and legitimate and some illegitimate and unimportant. So if you are raising rape as a reason to do, or not do, something, you must further define and defend that rational by further classifying your rape into those categories. And there can be reasonable differences of opinion where different rapes fall on a relative scale. (Like science!) So, as an example, simple rape alone is not a reason for claiming a simple right to abortion. And once you are on that slippery slope you have lost your moral ground. Rape cannot stand against abortion.
All of this has exactly one purpose- ‘personhood’. Todd Akin, Chris Smith, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party all support a constitutional amendment on personhood. A personhood amendment says “we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed”. It says that ‘life’ begins, and is sacred and protected, at conception. It requires the logical destruction of abortion. It abides no exceptions. Rape is not an exception, incest is not an exception, a woman’s health is not an exception. Consequences be dammed. Only the imminent death of the woman can potentially stand astride this mighty and sacred right. Personhood rights also call into legal question many existing infertility, reproductive, and contraception practices
Of course all of that makes sense if you hold that religious position and are willing to legally impose it on women that do not hold it. So, in the end, it is not about junk science it is about religious and personal freedom. Republicans Chris Smith and Todd Aikin believe that women have the legal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- unless they are pregnant. Based on these Republican religious beliefs, at conception women forfeit their legal rights to someone else. The real point of Aikin’s discussion was that women have ceretain rights and the Republicans want to take them away
Brian Froelich, Democratic Candidate for US Congress (NJ, 4th Dist.)