Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) made national news Sunday by coining the macabre phrase "legitimate rape," then doubling down with the still-stranger assertion that the bodies of rape victims mystically could ward off pregnancy. But Akin's real contribution to the nation's political discourse was to advance a truly consistent anti-abortion view: If abortion is the taking of life, then of course there can be no exception made in the case of a rape victim. (Or the victim of "legitimate rape," in now-famous Akin-speak).
The Romney-Ryan team lost no time rushing out a statement assuring Americans that its administration "would not oppose abortion in instances of rape." National Review Online, calling for Akin to "step aside," opined that "only a small minority of Americans opposes abortion in cases of rape."
Really? Can somehow please explain the logic in this? If it's undeniable fact that human life begins at conception and thus abortion is murder -- as "pro-lifers" argue so passionately -- then why on earth should an innocent unborn child lose its life merely because of the circumstance of his or her conception? If a fetus is a person, how can those who cherish life countenance its "slaughter" simply because its creation was the result of a rape?
The answer to those questions is that there is no answer, at least not a rational one. Were this the subject of legitimate inquiry -- say, at a presidential debate -- there is simply no way to square the unforgiving rhetoric of "life" and "murder" with the reality that pro-lifers (in large numbers) can live with exceptions to their own absolutes. Even a cursory discussion would reveal that the vast majority of Americans who are troubled by abortion simply feel it's wrong, not that it's the taking of human life. That's a big difference, because if this is not truly about life (and it isn't), the entire abortion issue is just a matter of opinion. And if it's just a matter of opinion, it should be a matter of choice for women.
The subject would become still murkier if "pro-life" advocates such as Romney and Ryan were asked to explain how their laws against abortion would actually be carried out. Who would determine if a rape had occurred, and how? Such an adjudication could hardly wait until the outcome of a rape trial, so approval of an exception -- most lethal to the unborn child -- would by necessity be made quite hastily. Again, the rhetoric cannot withstand even a cursory level of intellectual challenge.
So hats off to Todd Akin for bringing the issue to the fore. Now all the nation needs is a pro-choice side willing to carry the fight, and a national media willing to ask even a handful of simple questions. Politicians who indulge in the harsh rhetoric of "life" should be expected to back up their incendiary language with consistency, just like Akin did.