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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Akin as Poster-Boy for GOP’s Medieval Medicine, Junk Science

Silly me, thinking Todd Akin probably had just enough sense to get out of the Missouri Senate race yesterday. And despite Akin’s walkback of his twisted remarks about rape, the birds & bees, which smells an awful lot like a ‘jailhouse conversion,’ the draft GOP platform indicates that his unchanged policy prescriptions aren’t all that far out of the Republican party’s ‘mainstream.’ As an editorial in yesterday’s New York Times, puts it:

In passages on abortion, the draft platform puts the party on the most extreme fringes of American opinion. It calls for a “human life amendment” and for legislation “to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” That would erase any right women have to make decisions about their health and their bodies. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and such laws could threaten even birth control.
The draft demands that the government “not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage,” which could bar abortion coverage on federally subsidized health-insurance exchanges, for example.
The platform praises states with “informed consent” laws that require women to undergo medically unnecessary tests before having abortions, and “mandatory waiting periods.” Those are among the most patronizing forms of anti-abortion legislation. They presume that a woman is not capable of making a considered decision about abortion before she goes to a doctor…

Since Akin will be around for a little while, at least, he will serve as the poster-boy for the GOP’s medieval notions about female biology and women’s health rights. And no, the term ‘medieval’ is not that much of a stretch, as Vanessa Heggie writes in her article in the Guardian, “‘Legitimate rape’ – a medieval medical concept: The idea that rape victims cannot get pregnant is a very old medical theory“:

The legal position that pregnancy disproved a claim of rape appears to have been instituted in the UK sometime in the 13th century. One of the earliest British legal texts, Fleta, has a clause in the first book of the second volume stating that: “If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

Heggie cites other examples in more recent centuries. Junk science dies hard — especially in today’s Republican party.
The media is loving having Akin as poster-boy for the worst instincts of the GOP. And Democrats, not just Sen. McCaskill, are gratified that he keeps Republican lunacy on the front pages. But there may be a downside for Dems. Ed Kilgore notes in his Washington Monthly post on “Todd Akin, Superstar,”

…Thanks to the scorn and mockery he has now attracted, this relatively obscure congressman whom I’d bet half the pundits discussing his fate today had barely heard of before his primary win, is a National Superstar, the very embodiment of the Christian Right’s all-too-often abandoned determination to stand up to GOP pols who forever pay them lip service but rarely deliver the goods.

The media loves a buffoon, and it’s possible that Akin will hang in there long enough to serve as a distraction, deflecting media attention from Romney and Ryan, who espouse essentially the same policies as Akin. Much depends on the MSM, as well as the progressive press, making the connection between the views of the GOP ticket and the party’s loon du jour.

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