Opinion » Editorial

The Right Thing


In time, the fuss and bother over Todd Akin's impolitic and unscientific remarks about a woman's biological ability to offset "legitimate rape" may blow over, as might the puzzling defense of the Missouri Senate candidate's remark at last week's Republican National Convention by a fellow Republican, Tennessee state senator Joe Carr of Rutherford County. Perhaps we should even be gratified by the affair and its sequel, inasmuch as the overwhelming majority of both men's peers were quickly on the record as not  buying into their views.

But a nagging doubt persists: Just where did this outlandish idea come from? Was there a common source for such grotesque misinformation? Or was it all a coincidence involving two errant psyches who just happened to cite spurious "scientific" authorities? It's that part — the common vocabulary, the superficial appeal to reason, that concerns us, because it suggests that someone out there is actively propagating the myth of this hitherto unsuspected magic prowess and giving it the ersatz credibility of science.

And if that's the case, if there are in circulation underground texts attesting to this bogus reality in the same way that, say, quack theories denying the reality of the Holocaust exist, then we're in trouble. Each repetition of such a notion lends it a kind of plausibility; each emergence into human discourse becomes a "source," a piece of evidence, for the next.

Victoria Jackson, the former Saturday Night Live cast member, now a conservative activist, also responded at Tampa last week: "The Todd Akin thing was so blown out of proportion — it's a joke. How many times do people get pregnant from rape? It's point zero zero one percent. It's a joke. I read lots of articles. I know people, because I'm 53. I've known a lot of people, and I've actually never known anyone who got pregnant from being raped."

Dame Victoria goes further, and she's way past her SNL days. She's dead serious. "The DNA of a baby is individual. It's not the mother's DNA. It's not the father's DNA. And that's why I believe abortion is murder, because it's not the woman's body. It has its own DNA." Nevermind that, if Jackson were correct about the incidence of rape-caused pregnancies being "point zero zero one percent," there could be no baby in the first place, bearing whoever's DNA.

Ultimately, this distorted piece of folk intuition is far worse than simple error. It has surfaced, bogus "scientific" trappings and all, to make a serious, and possibly contagious, point: If there were substance to the claims made by Akin et al., then any woman who claims to have been made pregnant by a rapist is a lying Jezebel whose sin of wantonness cries out for stricter social controls, to be administered by a society's dominant males, whose surrendered powers over women need to be restored in all their premodern awesomeness.

Victoria Jackson's opinion notwithstanding, this matter is no joke.

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