It’s hard to believe how extreme the Republican Party has become – until someone like Todd Aken lets the cat out of the bag. The U.S. Senate candidate, who is challenging Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, said in a TV interview that:
If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
He was explaining why he believes rape victims should not be exempted from laws banning abortion – laws that Republicans in Congress and Republican legislatures across the land have been promoting so zealously.
Aken’s comment met with gasps of horror from Republican leaders. They were outraged – outraged – by his remarks and want him to quit the Senate race.
But, as Rachel Maddow so thoroughly documented on MSNBC last night, their outrage is not about what Aken said but the fact that he said it. Republicans consistently oppose exemption of rape victims from legislation outlawing abortion. And they often justify this position by claiming women’s bodies produce toxins that block pregnancy when they are raped.
Aken is not a kooky Tea Party candidate who came out of nowhere. He is a member of the current House of Representatives. And his outlandish ideas are shared by most Republican House members. They have voted to criminalize abortion dozens of times since they won a majority in the House in 2010.
And, here’s the most important point of all, a cosponsor of some of the most extreme legislation is now the Republican candidate for vice president. Yes, I mean Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate!
Ryan (pictured above , left, with Aken,right) boasts that he is the most “pro-life” member of Congress. He introduced legislation declaring that a fertilized human egg is a person. And he cosponsored a bill to change the definition of rape and block federal funds for some victims’ abortions. The other cosponsor? Todd Aken!
The Ryan/Aken bill distinguished between “forcible rape” and other kinds of rape, which presumably are not “legitimate.”
Obviously, Republican leaders believe that women are unlikely to get pregnant if they are “legitimately” raped because their bodies have ways to block pregnancy in such a traumatic event. And if the women get pregnant it’s because, well, it wasn’t really rape you know, they “asked for it” or “wanted it” or whatever.
It reminds me of the sniggering schoolboys back in Jamaica, whispering among themselves that “when women say ‘No’ they mean ‘No, don’t stop’ ” … and of the judges in rape trials who maintained that the victims “asked for it” by wearing mini-skirts or short shorts.
Of course, many years have passed since then. And that reveals something important about the Republican Party’s goals. In matters such as abortion and birth control, the party is back in the Fifties. And that’s not the only clue to the direction in which they want to take the country. From the workplace to the bedroom, the Republican agenda would turn back the hands of time.
As those frenetic Tea Party types keep yelling, they want their America back.
To the rest of us, America has come a long way from the dark ages of segregated schools and back-of-the-bus traditions. We applaud advances against religious tyranny and male domination, against bigotry, oppression and neglect.
We think of such change as enlightenment. Republicans consider them heresy. They want to return to the “good old days.”
But Republican campaign strategists know this position would be anathema to mainstream America. They know most voters would recoil from such extreme ideas. The strategists know they need to accomplish their mission by stealth.
And to do that Romney, Ryan and their ilk must lie and lie and lie.
And the Todd Akens of the party must shut up.