A Modest Proposal for Politicians

science education test coverNOTE: This post is about sexual assault and pregnancy and stupid, stupid remarks from men.

Last summer, the otherwise unknown Todd Akin, running for the Senate in Misouri, said the following in an interview when asked why he doesn’t support abortion in the case of rape or incest:

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

There was much snickering and frustration in the land after this sound bite, namely from people who find such nonsense revolting. Immediately progressives and pro-choice advocates slammed Akin, asking if that was how he felt in the cases of 9-year-old girls who get pregnant after sexual assault, and so on. Popular culture and news media aren’t exactly adept at communicating about horrific events like pregnant children, and so it was that for a time, worst case scenarios floated about social networking sites and cable television like confetti after a They Might Be Giants concert (or a political convention).

But looking at Mr. Akin’s statement, we see that he is not alone in holding such an extreme position, nor with this significant amount of conviction. Here are other statements about rape and pregnancy:

Physicians for Life’s web site — “Assault rape pregnancies are very rare.” [500 a year, by their estimate. Those women just need to carry those babies to term anyway.]

Paul Ryan — “I’ve always adopted the idea, the position, that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” [Asked why he does not support a rape exception, thus calling rape a method of conception.]

Sharon Barnes (Missouri Republican Party Committeewoman) — “Very few rapes result in pregnancy,” [adding that] “At that point, if God has chosen to bless this person with a life, you don’t kill it.”

Steve King (Iowa Representative) — “Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter.” [Asked about pregnancy from rape.]

Dear Mr. King: I think people know at this point not to bring any rape/pregnancy/reproductive rights issue to your attention in a personal way. Because apparently you would be total horse shit in helping them through it.

But hey, in this election cycle, there seems to be endless space and ability to add more completely unscientific, offensive commentary about women’s bodies, sexual assault, and abortion. And to digress for one second: why don’t these people ever talk about how awful sexual assault is and what their position is on dealing with trying to bring perpetrators to justice, the total disastrous statistics around convicting perpetrators, the lack of resources spent on educating men not to rape in the first place, or rehabilitate offenders? Nothing. Silence. Okay, back to our main program.

As I said, we’re always ready for more ridiculous statements about rape and pregnancy, so here’s the quote of the week:

Richard Mourdock, running for the US Senate in Indiana, said in a debate yesterday:

I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

Hear this, people. God is your rapist. No, really. That’s what he said.

I think it’s time to shut this all down. If Senate and House candidates, and people running to be the next POTUS are going to lead from the margins of religion, and reinvent the laws of physics and biology and call a small band of crackpot doctors “scientific evidence,” then I think we at least should have a means of measuring how stupid and uninformed and spiritually crazy they are before we cast our votes. Hey, the GOP has lined up behind Grover Norquist, a man who has never been elected to any office of any kind, in order to show how spectacularly they can reinvent decades of economics theory and pretend that by never taxing anyone, the government and economy will do just marvelously.

So how about this? Let’s ask all candidates to take a simple science test. They were all for science education testing as part of No Child Left Behind, remember. This will be perfect. Here are some sample science test questions:

Earth gets most of its light from:

a) the Sun

b) the stars

c) the Moon

d) a big bunch of mirrors glued together by small space children

Which statement is an inference?

(1) A thermometer shows that the air temperature is 56°F.
(2) A mineral sample of galena produced a  gray-black streak when tested.
(3) Based on previous data, ten hurricanes may occur in the year 2013.
(4) A pregnant woman is a sign from God to remember life is sacred.

The sum of all chemical reactions that take place within an organism is known as
A) evolution

B) circulation

C) metabolism

D) God’s plan

A bright object with a long tail of glowing gases is in orbit around the Sun. This object is most likely
(1) a planet (3) an asteroid
(2) Donald Trump (4) a comet

We can then rank our political candidates by score, and communicate those scores to the electorate. And then maybe we’ll only elect people who will know what the hell to vote for *cough cough jobs bill cough cough* when they show up on Capitol Hill.

Two more weeks, folks. Two more weeks.

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4 Comments on “A Modest Proposal for Politicians”

  1. Ted
    October 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    With you most of the way but rape _is_ a method of conception, an abhorrent one, but the term is accurate none the less – at least according to the definition:
    a (1) : the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both

    Yes, I am being a pedant, but if I – a liberally minded progressive – finds this to be an obstacle I know people who are not like minded will seize on it like it is their only hope of survival.

    • evmaroon
      October 25, 2012 at 7:26 am #

      I suppose when I hear the word “method,” I think it includes some intention on the part of the people involved. Maybe it’s because I grew up Catholic and was well familiar with the “rhythm method” by the time I graduated high school. Or all of the technical reports I’ve edited through the years that describe various methods toward this and that goal, using method to signify a purposeful activity to achieve something. Here’s the Merriam-Webster
      definition of method:

      A particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, esp. a systematic or established one.
      Orderliness of thought or behavior; systematic planning or action: “combination of knowledge and method”.

      No, it doesn’t include the word “intentional.” But it does, with words like “planning” and “systemic” and “orderly” connote that there is human will behind the process. So when I hear someone describe rape as a “method of conception,” I’m more outraged by the use of method than conception. Yes, rape does sometimes result in conception. But rape necessarily means that at least one individual involved in the action does not grant their will or intention to the action. Or more simply put: it may be a “method” for rapists, but it certainly is not for survivors, and to call it such is pretty inappropriate.

    • IrishUp
      October 25, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      Well, may I be pedantic about “accuracy”? Accuracy requires both disambiguity (you are using the word in such a way as to make clear which of any alternate meanings are being applied) and precision (it’s the best word for the job among synonyms). Because words not only have denotations, they have connotations, as Everett’s discussion of the word “method” makes clear.

      When we say “X is a method of conception”, for accuracy, the X should be something that the listener registers as “X is an activity or process with the primary purpose of getting the uterus-bearing participant pregnant” or “the reason someone would do X, is to become pregnant”.

      The definition you gave of conception includes – necessarily! – fertilization and/or implantation. The process or activity that gets you to those necessary conditions (that is specific to the conversation at hand) is accurately PIV sexual intercourse where parties are physiologically capable of their share of the fertile requirements.

      As a liberally minded progressive, I’m sure you’re acquainted with the mountains of literature showing that the primary purpose to engage in rape is to commit a sexualized assault. And I am sure you’re aware that a great many rapes do not involve EITHER PIV activities OR a victim capable of getting pregnant or a victim capable of making the rapist pregnant.

      In summary rape has the necessary condition of “sexual assault without consent”. To discuss consequences of rape without stating that necessary condition upfront or to attach any other meaning to the word AHEAD of those necessary conditions is NOT accurate.

      The a word you’re looking for there is in the section of the dictionary with the words starting with “as-“.

      • evmaroon
        October 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

        You had me at “disambiguity,” IrishUp. Seriously well said! A better articulation of why the original statement is so offensive in the first place.

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