I know there is no monolithic voting bloc called “women”—femaleness, like maleness, is cross-cut with race, education, class, income, ethnicity, religion, marital status, even geography. I also know we all make allowances for our own side, which usually boils down to forgiving men for sexual shenanigans and insulting “gaffes” (aka blurting out their true feelings) that no woman politician would get away with. But with that fully acknowledged, I still want to say: Women! WTF?! After all the weird, heartless, misogynistic, ignorant things Republican men have said about women and pregnancy and rape over the past month, I’m ashamed for my sex that any woman is still planning to vote for Romney and Ryan.
And a lot of them are: 51 percent of white women, to be exact. What’s the matter with them? Do they have Stockholm syndrome? And how about you, women of Virginia—21 percent of whom in a just-issued Public Policy Polling survey say they “strongly” agree that abortion should be banned even in cases of rape and incest? (For women 18 to 29, it’s 32 percent.)
Ladies, I doubt you read The Nation, but I’m going to say it anyway: The Republican Party is not your friend! It does not respect you or even like you. Rush Limbaugh thinks women who use birth control are sluts and prostitutes. Ann Coulter regrets that women can even vote. Most recently, you may have heard, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin said it’s “really rare” for women to get pregnant from rape because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” He has said he “misspoke” about “legitimate” rape—he meant “forcible,” another problematic word—and denies believing that women have magic sperm-killing plumbing. But both ideas—that only some rape really counts as rape, and that such rape doesn’t cause pregnancies—have long, inglorious Republican pedigrees. Some highlights:
§ In 1988, Pennsylvania Republican State Representative Stephen Freind said that women emit “a certain secretion” that stops pregnancy when they are raped.
§ In 1995, North Carolina Republican State Representative Henry Aldridge said that when a woman is raped, “the juices don’t flow” so she can’t get pregnant.
§ In 1998, Arkansas Republican Senate candidate Dr. Fay Boozman claimed that hormones prevented rape from resulting in pregnancy. Boozman lost the election, but Governor Mike Huckabee appointed him to run the state Department of Health.
§ In 2004, President Bush appointed to the federal bench James Leon Holmes, who had stated in 1980, “Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.”
Nor is Akin the only rape skeptic in today’s GOP. In March 2012, Idaho State Senator Chuck Winder said, “I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape.” Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith recently said that his daughter faced “something similar” to the situation of a pregnant rape victim because she decided to have a baby “out of wedlock.” And Iowa Representative Steve King remarked that he’d never heard of a girl getting pregnant from rape.
Should your magical uterus fail you, Mike Huckabee supports carrying your rapist’s baby: “Even from those horrible, horrible tragedies of rape, which are inexcusable and indefensible, life has come and sometimes, you know, those people are able to do extraordinary things.” Well, who says they aren’t? The issue is whether the woman should be forced by law to bear her rapist’s wonder tot.
Paul Ryan and Todd Akin wanted to restrict coverage of abortion to victims of “forcible rape” in their version of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, sponsored by 217 Republicans (and, sadly, ten Democrats). In the wake of Akin, Ryan has defended the term as “stock language.” John Willke, the mad physician who founded the National Right to Life Committee, has been denying that rape causes pregnancy for decades (“the tubes are spastic,” he recently explained to the New York Times). Romney welcomed Willke’s endorsement in 2008 (“I am proud to have the support of a man who has meant so much to the pro-life movement in our country”). Willke says they met last October and that Romney assured him they agree on “almost everything.”
Finally, let’s not forget that since 1984 the GOP platform has called for a complete ban on abortion, even for good girls, and that this is the position of Paul Ryan, who has described keeping abortion legal when there’s a risk to the woman’s health as ”a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through.”
If a white candidate said black people don’t feel the heat because they come from Africa, would black voters brush that off as a slip of the tongue? If a Christian candidate made headlines for saying Jews secretly run the world, would Jewish voters insist the media was making a fuss over nothing? Only women refuse to take collective insults seriously. You would think even anti-choice women would pick up on the indifference, distrust, callousness and obtuseness toward women exhibited by the GOP. But no. Sometimes I feel women have been hit on the head with a great big frying pan.
Obviously, the Republicans worry that the polls will shift—as has already happened in Missouri, where Claire McCaskill is now nine points ahead of Akin. On the eve of the Republican National Convention, Romney felt the need to tell CBS that the president has little to do with abortion, a matter to be decided “in the courts.” Does he not know who nominates Supreme Court justices?
Come on, women voters. Show you have a better grasp of government than the Republican who wants to run it.
Editor’s Note: This column initially misstated the year in which the Republican platform first called for banning abortion. It was in 1984, not 1998.