There are two sides within the anti-abortion movement. On one side, stand men and women who care deeply about human life and fear that abortion devalues society by creating a caste of disposable people. On the other side, lurk crabbed adults who think women should be punished for having extramarital sex and that pregnancy is fit punishment that (luck of the draw) spares men and falls instead on women and girls.
I think we all know which corner hosts Rep. Todd Akin. When TV reporter Charles Jaco asked Akin whether abortion should be illegal if it is the result of rape, the Republican Party Missouri Senate candidate gave this inglorious answer: “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Akin later tried to run from his freely chosen words. He issued a statement in which he lamented that the quote broadcast nonstop on MSBNC “does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.” Too late. I think voters know exactly what Akin thinks about rape victims: If they get pregnant, they wanted it.
Monday morning, Mitt Romney called Akin’s remarks “offensive” and “insulting, inexcusable and frankly wrong.” President Obama, too, found Akin’s views “offensive. Rape is rape.”
Democrats are working overtime trying to tie Romney running mate Paul Ryan to Akin, as Ryan has opposed abortion, except to save the life of the mother. (The Romney campaign says the ticket does not oppose abortion in cases of rape.)
This is the Democratic National Committee playbook: Delegitimize a respectable position — that abortion is the taking of innocent life — not by refuting it but by assessing guilt by association.
Sen. Barbara Boxer released a statement in which she claimed Akin’s comments represented another chapter in the GOP’s “war on women.” Well, another page in that chapter stars Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who spent nearly $2 million portraying Akin as a true conservative so that he would win the GOP primary and she would face the weakest candidate in November.
The so-called Republican “war on women” is a crock — a cynical ploy to gin up the Dems’ distaff base. The Obama White House sounded a trumpet in this phony war when it announced earlier this year that church-based institutions would have to provide “free” birth control (no co-payment) for workers on health care plans, even if doing so violated their deeply held religious tenets. Pro-choice now means no choice — for religious folk.
As for women, they stand on both sides of the abortion divide. A Gallup poll in May found that 49 percent of Americans considered themselves “pro-choice,” while 45 percent considered themselves “pro-life.” And the poll also found: “Men and women are nearly identical in their views about the legality and morality of abortion.” The view that women are united in support of abortion rights is about as fact-based as Akin’s view on “legitimate rape.”
Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org