by Linda Beale
The GOP, rape and abortion, and the place of God in political discourse
Remember GOP candidate Akin and his comments about no-pregnancies-from-legitimate-rape, suggesting somehow that most rapes are not legitimate and are maybe sought after by the one raped as well as by the rapist? Akin revealed an incredible lack of understanding about what rape means to women in terms of the devastiating difficulty of the experience itself and its long-term impact on a person’s well-being and sense of self. At the same time, he showed an incredible naivete or lack of competence in judging science from hearsay in his belief that women who are raped can prevent pregnance (apparently by some kind of magic). Akin has come to symbolize for me the problem of the far-right’s dominance of the GOP in terms of inability to distinguish fact from convenient fiction, scientific theory from dogmatic beliefs and wishes, or societal realities from ideological wishes.
Now we learn that Richard Mourdock, GOP Senate candidate in Indiana, supports banning abortion in all circumstances other than when the life of the mother-to-be is endangered. When asked about pregnancies that result from rape, he insisted that he thought the woman should be forced to carry out the pregnancy because “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” (He has since “apologized”, if you can call a statement that others have “misinterpreted his comments” an apology. See Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza, Mourdock apologizes for ‘misinterpretation’ of rape comments, Obama campaign pounces, The Fix, Washington Post (oct. 24, 2012).
This is just another example of the GOP’s deaf ear to what they impose on women–even what may be construed as a “war on women” because of their unwillingness to treat women as equals in so many ways, including in having appropriate choices about their own bodies. Because the mostly white males that make up the GOP political class never are in the position of being impregnated by a criminal rapist or carrying an embryo from a few cells through its development into a fetus and then delivering a baby that they will need to love and cherish throughout its life, they can easily say that if you got pregnant in a rape, the new life form that is represented by the joining of your egg cell and the rapist’s sperm cell is something “God intended to happen” and therefore you must preserve that life. Mourdock doens’t understand what it means to become pregnant and carry that pregnancy through to fruition or what it would be like to carry the child of your rapist and to give birth to that child. Mourdock, I dare say, doesn’t begin to comprehend the violation to self that rape signifies to women. And the Obama campaign is correct in noting that “a Republican Congress working with a Republican president Mitt Romney would (feel) that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care.” Id.
GOP NRSC chairman John Cornyn supported Mourdock, saying that we all “believe that life is a gift from God.” Id. But it is an obvious fact that we humans destroy life on a massive scale–from baby lambs slaughtered to “celebrate” Easter to mature wild horses slaughtered to satisfy other countries’ craving for meat, from death penalty murders by the state to drone murders by the military. The right’s fixation on abortion appears to have much more to do with the desire to keep women in a submissive state than it has to do with cherishing lives-to-be or existing life. If life is so cherished, why doesn’t the GOP support a vegan diet, elimination of the death penalty, funding for adequate pre-natal and post-natal care for those in the lower 40 percent of the income distribution, and diplomacy over military solutions to international disputes?
Of course, there’s another issue here, one that cannot seemingly be addressed any more in the public arena. It is politicians’ pervasive reliance on their own personal beliefs in and about “God” as a justification for political and governmental action or inaction, the incremental encroachment of an outspoken minority’s religious beliefs on the available options for the vast majority who may not share them. Mourdock’s statement implies that all Americans must necessarily believe in (his version of) God, since he is asserting that legislation on abortion must take (what he deems to be) God’s plans into account. And whatever happens, it must be (his) God’s intent. Thus, in spite of Mourdock’s denial that he is saying that (his) God preordains the rape as well as the pregnancy, it is hard to escape the conclusion that he must ultimately believe that, since the pregnancy would not have happened in these cases without the rape. And thus he ultimately is suggesting that rape isn’t quite so bad as any woman who has been raped– or has imagined being raped, or has known someone who was raped –knows it is.