Women’s reproductive rights seem ever complicated as male politicians, pundits, and commentators continue to debate about how much or how little choice women should have in issues concerning rape, abortion, and birth control. Not only that, prominent male figures continue to add to the rhetoric on female reproductive rights as if they are subject-matter experts. Remember when then Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, was called a “slut” by radio commentator and right-wing talking head, Rush Limbaugh, for speaking at Capitol Hill about the availability of free birth control? What about a few weeks ago when Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO), who is now running for the US Senate, explained how the female body shuts down reproduction when a woman has been raped? Sadly, the beat goes on where this stupidity is concerned. But, there are major implications for the Roe v. Wade (1973) and women’s reproductive rights in a general sense. When presidential candidates begin to espouse these very same ideals, things get a lot more serious than one would assume.
Recently, yet another male figure decided to add to the stupidity. United States Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock (R-IN), made some controversial comments about religion and rape. Endorsed by presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney, his words have fired up pundits on both sides the aisle.
Last Tuesday, in a senatorial debate, when asked about abortion rights in the case of rape or incest, Mourdock explained:
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
And, though these sentiments may appeal to more extreme members of the conservative community, most were turned off by the insensitivity. The real question here is why is a man “struggling” with this for a “long time?” It is almost laughable that a male of any stature would think that women’s reproductive rights present a struggle of a personal nature. And, to say that God intended the pregnancy of a rape victim implies that God intended a woman to be raped. Whether one believes in God or not, this belief minimizes the victimization a woman feels after being violated by a stranger. And, it basically says that God wants the rape victim to bear the child of her aggressor. This is wrong on so many levels.
The Politics of Women’s Rights
Okay, so we all get that what’s been said about women, women’s rights, and victimhood by the likes of Limbaugh, Akin, and Mourdock is totally asinine. Strikingly though, neither of the two political candidates have dropped out of their races. They’ve actually stood by their comments and soldiered forward as if to say that these comments represent the status quo. But the plot thickens.
Current VP nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Akin just a year ago. And, he has been a staunch pro-lifer who believes that there are different types of rape…sometimes rape may be “forcible.” And, in other cases, I guess, it’s “consensual?” Yes, totally asinine. But, Ryan, running alongside Gov. Romney for the VP nod, hasn’t said much about this issue since being added to the ticket. His likeness to Akin may be disturbing for many women. Both Akin and Ryan voted over 10 times to restrict abortion rights since 2011. Instead of voting to add jobs to the economy, these men have been focused on the female body for an entire year.
In terms of Mourdock, Romney has an ad out supporting the candidate for the US Senate. And, he has yet to withdraw his support. It goes without saying but both Ryan and Romney are very pro-life. And, Romney’s official website even explains that he has the desire to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973). Why such a focus on your uterus? Because extremists have become ever vocal in recent years. And although nominee Romney has seemed to moderate a bit since the debates, primary contender Romney was basically a member of the Tea Party (they have a whole website supporting him). So, both of these extreme attacks on women’s reproductive rights, Akin and Mourdock, are tied to the current GOP presidential ticket. Scared yet? There’s more.
In 1973, the United State Supreme Court decided in a 7-2 decision to legalize abortion. But today’s Supreme Court is much more conservative than it was back then. With the very close decision on the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, the GOP may want to get abortion issues in front of the Court while the opportunity remains. Under a President Romney, there would most likely be another appointment to the Court. This means that the Court may get ever more conservative if Romney is elected. What does this mean for Roe v. Wade? Some argue it means nothing at all. Maybe the decision won’t be overturned if Romney is elected. But having a president and vice president in the White House who align themselves with “the female body can’t get pregnant when raped” and “God planned rape so you could have a baby” believers is scary all unto itself.
Overall, it really seems to be a dated issue. If abortion and birth control are legal now, why take us backward? Well, pro-life supporters have their reasons. But those are not up for debate here. The disconcerting facet of this argument is the lack of input women have in the control of their own uterus. Is it a man’s right to choose? Maybe. At least Ryan and Romney seem to think so. And so do Akin and Mourdock. And, don’t be fooled, Limbaugh thinks so too. So, if all these prominent characters believe it, what’s to keep them from winning the battle over your uterus?
Truthfully, a major part of this issue is the fact that women make up less than 20% of Congress. Therefore, the highest legislative body of this land is hardly symbolic of the population it is supposed to represent. At times like this, representation is the best weapon against political actors seeking to strip women of their reproductive rights. But for now, the outcome of this presidential election will have the greatest impact on where this battle goes next.