Congressman Todd Akin’s ill-conceived remarks on rape, during an interview in which he was asked a question about abortion in the case of rape, were certainly unfortunate. Yet the media frenzy that has ensued in response to his remarks illustrates yet again the negative, inhibiting effects of political correctness on public discourse. The congressman apparently was operating on misinformation– the notion that somehow the female body thwarts pregnancy in cases of rape, which of course is not true scientifically. His thoughts on this may seem far-fetched, but others have shared this misconception. Thus it seems Mr. Akin’s words were not just poorly chosen (he apologized for his choice of words the following day), but reflective of this misunderstanding. What did Akin mean by using the phrase “legitimate rape”? I’m not entirely sure, but it’s clear this is the phrase most were offended by, even many pro-life Republicans. OK, so Akin is, or was, seriously misinformed on the science behind rape and pregnancy, and he used very unfortunate language. Yet it seems clear from the interview in which his remarks were made, and his subsequent apologies that Mr. Akin is not unsympathetic to rape victims. Rather, as a consistent pro-life advocate, he was emphasizing his concern that the unborn child conceived under the horrific circumstance of rape is nevertheless a human being whose life and rights also ought to be protected. Aborting the unborn child, he argues, only creates a second victim in such tragic circumstances.
An effective way to defeat the view one opposes is to frame the public debate in language favorable to one’s cause. Framing abortion as a matter of “women’s health”, portraying it as a “choice” and thus as an issue of liberty, has been a powerful, successful tool in the pro-abortion arsenal, one that has helped sway the thinking of many to their side on the issue of abortion. What better way to put the anti-abortionist on the defense than to bring up scenarios of abortion when the mother’s life is at risk, or when the woman has been raped. Just to raise such questions arouses natural sympathies towards women, shifting the focus of the abortion debate to women’s health and her freedoms. But while it is a tactic that works, it is also a maneuver that diverts attention from realities about abortion. The fact is that only a small minority of abortions each year are performed because of rape, or a mother’s life being endangered. “Only 12% of women included a physical problem with their health among reasons for having an abortion (NAF). [Just] one per cent (of aborting women) reported that they were the survivors of rape (NAF).”
Rape or health concerns account for relatively few abortions, so to frame the abortion issue by bringing up rape and health concerns is effective, but disingenuous. The vast majority of abortions in the USA are performed to avoid the inconvenience of bringing a child into this world. “On average, women give at least three reasons for choosing abortion: three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities; about two-thirds say they cannot afford a child; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.” “Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended; about 4 in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion. (AGI). “At current rates, nearly one-third of American women will have an abortion (AGI).”
Since Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, nearly 50 million legal abortions have occurred in the U.S., between 1973 and 2008 (AGI). Abortion in America has become a way of life, as the stigma surrounding having an abortion seems a thing of the past. It is a billion dollar industry that is highly profitable for its practitioners.
So by all means, let the debate on abortion continue. We can discuss whether or not the unborn are indeed human beings with rights just as their mothers have rights. Or argue whether it is more humane to allow abortion when societal conditions might seem to indicate that bringing more children into the world will just mean the world gets more neglected, abandoned and abused children. But let’s not be fooled into thinking that the primary issue when it comes to abortion is either women’s health or rape, when the facts demonstrate that abortion is mostly about unwanted pregnancies, killing for convenience, and profit.