If you’ve ever failed to have an experience of extreme moral disgust followed by a reflex to eyeroll and then gag, well, today’s your lucky day! Here’s an excerpt from an article on Salon:
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Missouri Senate hopeful Todd Akin said in an interview Sunday, explaining why his ideal abortion ban wouldn’t include an exception for rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he added.
…[Akin] was asked, “So just to be clear, though, you would like to ban the morning-after, totally for everyone?” Akin replied, “I think that’s a form of abortion, and I don’t support it.”
As the article points out, Akin is wrong about pregnancies caused by rape being “rare.” America’s national figure of pregnancies resulting from rape is over 32,000; with about 5% of victims becoming pregnant from a rape. 1 in 20 isn’t rare, to state the obvious. Theories of Rape, p.49, describes a scientific study that found female orangutans, when forced to copulate, are somewhat less likely to get pregnant (not far less likely), but not dramatically so: it still happened often enough for the researchers to observe multiple times during their research for the study. Extrapolating this finding to humans, we might expect the odds are similar. On the other hand, I also found a study which concluded that rape resulted in pregnancy more often (!) than when consensual sex occurred.
Though the scientific data has not settled in on any definite conclusion about the frequency of rape resulting in pregnancy, it is fair to say that even if the more conservative estimates are basically correct, then pregnancy caused by rape is still too frequent for anyone to be remotely comfortable with. In any case, Akin’s statement concerning the frequency is a non-sequitor: even were there had only been one pregnancy-by-rape in the history of the world, that would not justify nullifying that woman’s right to an abortion.
Second, Akin’s extremist position on the morning after pill is absolutely indefensible. First, taking the morning-after pill isn’t “an abortion,” it works by preventing the pregnancy, taking effect prior to ovulation and blocking it in most cases, in addition to inhibiting fertilization and implantation.
Last but not least, there’s no moral case to be had against first-trimester abortions (second and third are more debatable, but that’s not what I’m about here). I’ve heard the arguments against it, and they are terrible non-sequiturs:
The embryo is alive. If it can’t continue on its own, outside the womb, it may not, strictly speaking, meet the definition of life. But set that aside: why would this bother us from a moral perspective? If you eat meat or any fruits/veggies that result in death of the plant, then you agree that ending life is not, in and of itself, wrong.
The embryo has its own genetic code. Yeah, so does a virus. Are you gonna think twice before taking an antibiotic?
It’s murder! In order to prove that, you have to demonstrate a life is being taken, and, more importantly, that the life in question is worthy of moral consideration. Since sentient awareness, the ability to feel pain, to desire, etc. seems to be the criteria by which we know that it is wrong to kill other humans, one has to demonstrate that the embryo has those characteristics before we can say that ending its existence would be morally wrong. And since a first trimester embryo doesn’t even have brain (at least not one developed to the point that it could feasibly have the functions I talked about) it follows that the case against abortion is done for.