More Politics of Rape
Posted on October 27, 2012 by Eric Francis
at Planet Wave
Dear Friend and Reader:
Earlier this week, Mitt Romney endorsed a Tea Party-backed Senate candidate named Richard Mourdock, who is running in Indiana [see video here]. Romney touted him as the potential 51st vote against government health care (even though ‘Obamacare’ is a corporate health care program).
Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Tuesday when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape, ”that’s something God intended.” See the full video here.
Mourdock was the only candidate for Senate endorsed by Romney in this election cycle, so he stands out a bit. The very next day at a debate against his opponent, Mourdock said that he was against a woman’s right to have an abortion, even in the case of rape — because the pregnancy was a “gift from God.”
“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,” Mourdock said [see video here]. He struggled with it? Are we to assume he got pregnant?
Mourdock became the second GOP Senate candidate to wax philosophical about rape and pregnancy in recent months. Rep. Todd Akin, running for U.S. Senate from Missouri, said during a television interview in August that women’s bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of what he called “legitimate rape.”
“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: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child,” he said. I am sitting here wondering by what logic, or precedent, a fetus has more rights than a sovereign citizen — unless one does not count women as such.
As if it’s not enough that abortion rights, which are long-settled case law, are somehow a central issue in this campaign (Romney has promised to sign the so-called Personhood Amendment if it lands on his desk) and as if it’s not enough that even the right to birth control is coming into question (Romney has promised to do his part to have the Supreme Court’s Griswold v. Connecticut decision repealed), now we have to hear about rape on a regular basis. Rape is about an attacker taking total control over the victim, in truth, one step shy of murder. Until recently, it was subject to the death penalty in many American states. Now it’s being associated with a “gift from God.”
The official platform of the Republican party states its opposition to abortion under all circumstances, including in cases of rape and incest. The official platform! I have been reading comments like “This is how Jim Crow guys in the south were during the Sixties — very loud,” implying that this kind of misogyny is a kind of death rattle for their point of view. I am not buying that argument, at all. I am not willing to take that chance. There are too many forces pushing in the same direction, and to me this seems more neo than retro.
However you may feel about voluntary medical abortion, making it into a crime presents a problem: abortions and miscarriages happen spontaneously, and would be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution as potential murders. The central question here is, should women have autonomous dominion over their bodies, or should every pregnancy be government property, subject to investigation? In essence, this is a discussion about making every uterus a potential crime scene.
It’s easy to cast this as opposition to something distasteful, painful and often considered a necessary evil. It’s easy to cast it as a moral issue, and blame God. There really is no secular, scientific or medical argument in opposition to a woman’s right to choose the destiny of a pregnancy, especially early in the term — all of the arguments are religious, or emotional.
American political discourse has degraded to the point where it’s now considered legitimate to claim, in public, that women have no rights whatsoever over their bodies, or their reproductive destiny. If you have studied any feminism at all, you know that for women, reproductive rights are the same thing as human rights. And now we are even hearing politicians advocate for the parental rights of rapists. I really wonder why there is not a bigger outcry. Is it because this seems too weird to be true? Or is it about a conscious giveback of both rights and their corresponding responsibilities?
For the past three decades, many American children have been subjected to abstinence-only indoctrination in public schools, which is basically a taxpayer supported campaign of ignorance and shame. This is the perfect state of mind for such a vicious, actually insane conversation to flourish. And, one would think, anyone who wanted to see fewer abortions would be in favor of family planning and conscious pregnancy prevention. But that’s not the way things are going — which puts women in an extremely dangerous double bind.
The slide or even downward spiral of how women are treated, and how women assert themselves in society, is a complex scenario and I think that each of us would be wise to take the inquiry inward, and into our relationships as well.
We have to look at this in the context of the conscious assault on the rights of women, as well as the voluntary abdication of those rights; the dumbing down of the population via abstinence indoctrination; the proliferation of sexual imagery; and the rise of homophobia, which also influences relationships between the sexes as well as intrapersonal relating. That is to say, all of this influences our most intimate situations, and how we feel about ourselves.
Women’s issues are often presented as ‘special interests’, which is part of the scam. The more pressing issues of our day seem to be the planet heating up, the power of the arms industry, total corruption, the abuse of technology and corporations thinking they have the rights of humans, enabled by the courts. Yet these all may be byproducts of the condition of human rights, and deep at the core, this is about the treatment of women, by both men and other women. What I am saying is the first human rights issue is how we treat one another — and this seems to involve gender more often than not.
Sex and gender issues are not boutique items. I believe they are the center of the cyclone. If the prevailing, real-life story of the human race is one sex oppressing the other, that’s going to reflect in every other way, influencing everything that happens on the planet — including how we treat the Earth.
The central political question of our day, in my view is: To what extent have women and men learned to recognize one another as people? To what extent have we learned to recognizeourselves as people? The political is indeed as personal as it gets.