Writers working for the Obama campaign would never have been bold enough to create Todd Akin, a six-term Republican Congressman from Missouri, currently challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. It's a seat the Republicans dearly want to win, and McCaskill has been trailing in the polls. The Democrats were concerned.
Concerned, that is, until Rep. Akin gave a recent Sunday talk show interview. When asked if he supported a woman having access to an abortion in the case of rape or incest, Aikin's response, to the chagrin of Republicans, was stunning. "First of all," he said, "from what I understand from doctors," pregnancy resulting from rape "is really rare. If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down. Maybe there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
Consider that statement and its full significance. Is Akin saying that if a rape is "legitimate" the woman will not become pregnant because her body secretes a spermicide, produced from the trauma of the sexual assault? If she does become pregnant, there was no secretion, hence no "legitimate" rape and she, in this bizarre GOP universe of women's health, was consenting and therefore her claim of "rape" is contrived (yearly, some 32,000 women become pregnant as a result of being raped). Is this the rabbit hole that we are being asked to drop into?
In truth, Akin's distinction between "legitimate" or "illegitimate" rape is moot. His meta-position on abortion is that there should be no exceptions — not for rape or incest or the life of the mother. That means that if a diabetic woman becomes pregnant and is told by her doctor that her pregnancy will endanger her life and should be terminated, Akin would insist that an abortion not be an option. Or if a 14-year-old girl, still a child, is raped by, say, a family member and becomes pregnant, the government should force her to carry the child to term. No matter the physical or emotional consequences for this mere girl.
And here's the stark reality: There is no daylight between the GOP and Rep. Akin. He is the Republican Party. Regardless of the outcry and indignation by noted Republicans, to include Messrs. Romney and Ryan, all calling for Akin to step aside in his quest for the Missouri senate seat. It was pure political theater.
While GOP leaders were publicly pushing Akin to quit his race, the Republican platform committee, in Tampa, was crafting the party's hard-line, anti-abortion plank calling for a constitutional amendment outlawing all abortions with no exceptions. None.
Furthermore, for all of his feigned shock, there is no separation between Congressman Paul Ryan and Todd Akin. In 2011, Ryan joined Republicans in co-sponsoring The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, an insidious piece of legislation. Though current law prevents Medicaid from paying for abortions, there is an exception for women who are raped. The No Funding Act attempted to narrow the exception by insisting that only pregnancies arising from "forcible" rape can be funded by Medicaid. By including the word "forcible," the Republicans were cynically targeting those women who are the poorest and most vulnerable among us and least likely to be able to afford an abortion absent Medicaid funding. The burden of proof regarding "forcible" rape as opposed to "ordinary" rape resided with the woman. Must there be cuts and bruising? And how does "forcible" rape apply to women who were drugged or had diminished capacity (date rape)? It is a craven parsing by Ryan et al., one that ignores the victim and attempts to obviate abortion as an alternative. Which is what such legislation is really all about.
Ryan and Akin also co-sponsored the extreme Sanctity of Human Life Act, also known as "personhood" legislation that would grant an egg, from the moment of fertilization, the same rights as a human being and would thereby outlaw all forms of birth control that interfere with conception.
Akin and Ryan are the newly reconstructed Republican Party. The fringe has become the mainstream: the tea party; the birthers; the literal Bible-based evangelicals; the anti-gay marriage, anti- abortion, shrink government down to the size of a walnut and then drown it in the bathtub crew (but not so small that it can't get between a pregnant woman and her doctor, requiring that an ultrasound wand be inserted into her vagina). They call for reduced taxes while refusing to raise revenues, insisting austerity trumps all. And, of course, they will repeal the Affordable Care Act.
These folks are no longer demanding entrance into the Republican tent. They are the tent. And they represent a window into the heart of the Republican Party.
Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.