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.