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Jane Ahlin, Published August 25 2012

Ahlin: Akin, Ryan and Berg all in same anti-woman camp

Please don’t laugh at Missouri Congressman Todd Akin for crudely saying about rape exactly what the 2012 Republican platform asserts and vice president candidate Paul Ryan and North Dakota Senate hopeful Rick Berg long have espoused: A raped woman should have no right to abortion.

The truth is, the Republican platform goes much further than that: A teenage victim of incest or statutory rape has no right to abortion. A woman whose health may be ruined or who might die in pregnancy has no right to abortion. And forget the plight of infertile couples needing IVF, because the Republican platform declares every embryo in a petri dish to be a human being.

In fact, forget reliable methods of birth control that could prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, including hormonal methods and IUDs. In calling for a constitutional ban on all abortion, a “human life amendment,” and the extension of Fourteenth Amendment status to “unborn children,” the Republican platform allows no exceptions. Period.

Akin doesn’t get why Republican mucky-mucks are so furious with him, and indeed, he has a point. Yes, it was stupid to suggest that women who suffer “legitimate” rape can’t get pregnant because their bodies “have ways to shut that whole thing down.” However, he’s right to say that, overall, his talking points line up well with the rhetoric and legislative proposals of the presumed vice presidential candidate, Ryan, and, unfortunately, Berg. After all, along with Akin’s ignorant remarks about rape and pregnancy, he parroted the party in saying “there should be some punishment (for rape), but the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Hmmm. Is there anything missing in that popular Republican talking point about rape, pregnancy and punishment? Anybody else come to mind, other than the rapist and the embryo?

Well, not if you agree with the Republican platform. The rest of us, however, remember the woman and believe there are few punishments crueler than forcing a woman to go through nine months of pregnancy in order to bear the child of her rapist.

For that matter, Akin’s goofy idea of a woman being too traumatized to be impregnated by rape has great cachet in the extreme world the Republican party now inhabits. Dr. John Willke, an anti-abortion doctor who heads up Life Issues Institute (and whose support Mitt Romney welcomed in 2007) touts the idea that women aren’t likely to get pregnant in “assault” rapes. As in the “birther” nonsense (note: Public Policy Polling during the primaries showed 51 percent of likely GOP primary voters were birthers and another 21 percent “weren’t sure”), there is a strong strain among Republicans toward dismissing claims of rape as female trickery. (Women claim rape because they love to get abortions.) Not surprisingly, Akin now says that “legitimate rape” was meant to distinguish false rape claims from real ones – showing that he believes mistrust of women puts him back on solid Republican ground.

The Akin melee puts Ryan in an uncomfortable spot. Suddenly, the 38 anti-abortion measures he sponsored point to his extreme views at a time when he is trying to be Romney’s “everyman.” The melee also should make Congressman Berg uncomfortable, because his short record is every bit as extreme.

Here are three examples:

• Congressman Berg cosigned HR3, a “forcible rape” provision designed to narrow the abortion exemption for rape, redefining rape by making victims ineligible for abortion unless they could prove they were forced. (Ryan and Akin were sponsors.)

• Berg also cosigned HR358, a bill that would have allowed religiously affiliated hospitals who receive government funds to refuse to transfer women needing emergency abortions to other hospitals for the procedure, even if the lives of the women were at stake.

• And finally, Berg cosigned HR374, the “federal personhood” amendment, which would have given fertilized eggs the legal status of people.

All those bills are extreme measures that would set reproductive medicine and women’s rights back 50 years. It is no laughing matter.

Ahlin writes a Sunday column for The Forum. Email janeahlin@yahoo.com