Rape and the mind of God

Indiana's Richard Mourdock, Illinois' Joe Walsh and Missouri's Todd Akin aren't doctors. They are Republicans running for the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives. But they appear to have special knowledge of how a woman's body works, not to mention the mind of God.

Mr. Mourdock is the latest, saying last week that if a woman became pregnant as a result of rape, "that is something God intended to happen."

Mr. Akin, like Mr. Mourdock a candidate for the Senate, famously said in August that a woman's reproductive processes would shut down during "legitimate rape," and she wouldn't conceive.

And Congressman Walsh stated with conviction during a debate against Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth that abortion to save the life of the mother "has become a tool for abortions any time and for any reason." It is a ploy, he said, because medical science has advanced so far that the mother's life can always be saved without harm to the fetus.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said remarks like these are the reason politicians need to "get out of our exam rooms," while science writers took pains to explain why these statements were not, in fact, true — that a woman's body has no reproductive fuse that is tripped by "legitimate" rape, and that there are any number of pre-existing conditions as well as gestational emergencies that threaten a woman's life, and that medicine has not found ways of overcoming them all.

And while I recognize the religious belief that all life is a gift from God, to say that to a woman who has become pregnant by her rapist is at the very least insensitive. And to say that God "intended" it is cruel.

Even Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor and a surrogate for Mitt Romney, said Mr. Mourdock's comment about God and rape was "kinda crazy." And he lamented the fact that these guys are killing the clock before Election Day, when Mr. Romney needs every last second to talk about the economy.

I would like to say something reasonable here, such as "Women of America, make sure you vote so that Congress does not end up in the hands of men with such extreme views."

But what I am really thinking is, "Under what rock are these stupid white men living, and why doesn't somebody make them shut up? What's next, something astonishingly uninformed about incest?"

(Oh right. They already did that. Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice-presidential nominee, was co-sponsor with Mr. Akin on a bill that would have redefined incest, for the purposes of abortion, as something that only happens to minors.)

After his "legitimate rape" comment, Mr. Akin was shunned by the Republican Party, including Mr. Romney, and was denied access to the party's checkbook. But that was August, and this is a week before the election, and the chill has thawed and the money is flowing again because the goal, after all, is to take control of the Senate — apparently at any cost.

Likewise, I don't expect that Mr. Mourdock or Mr. Walsh will be taken to the party woodshed for their remarks.

I'd laugh at all these ideas — President Barack Obama's campaign called them "pre-historic" — if it didn't scare the daylights out of me. I worry when voters elect ignorant people to high office. Like Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia, who thinks the earth is 9,000 years old and that evolution is a lie "straight from the pit of hell."

And he's on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and a medical doctor.

I worry because their outlandish comments distract women from the man behind the curtain. Those who oppose a woman's right to choose have been doing more than biding their time waiting for a Republican in the White House to tilt the Supreme Court so that Roe v. Wade can be reversed. They have been systematically seeding the ground.

The Center for Reproductive Rights predicts that 30 states would outlaw abortion almost immediately if the high court hands the matter to them. Plenty of roadblocks and burdensome regulations already exist on that level, from invasive ultrasounds and fetal pain laws to health and safety codes designed to put clinics out of business.

I bet you think there are just a handful of crazy white men who think like Mr. Mourdock, Mr. Akin and Mr. Walsh. I bet you think there are just a couple of states where you don't want to live if you are a woman, like Texas and Virginia.

I bet you think you are safe because you live in Maryland.

But the House of Representatives is already hostage to tea partyers like Mr. Walsh. And the Senate is hanging in the balance. So is the presidency.

Abortion isn't their only issue. These guys also don't like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, health care reform that covers well-woman visits, insurance coverage for contraception, marriage equality, and expansion of the Violence Against Women Act to same-sex couples.

This could not be a more critical election for women.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at susan.reimer@baltsun.com and @Susan Reimer on twitter.com.

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