Monday, August 20, 2012

Illegimate Rape?

If you're a regular visitor around these parts, you know that I very, very rarely wade into politics and emotion-charged social issues. Not because I don't have strong positions on such matters but because commentary is bleepin' everywhere; you can't get away from it — though way too much of it is simply gross regurgitation of meaningless sound bites. More than anything, there are limited hours in the day, and mine are usually pretty damn full. Posting on political topics most often leads to yet more emotionally charged "discussion," which, should I  go whole-hog into it, eats up ridiculous amounts of time and usually just pisses me off.

In the case of the very recent, very stupid remarks by Congressman Todd Akin (R, MO), however, I'm going to make an exception and express some personal feelings. Feel free to respond if you wish, but if you're just going to blurt out crap like, "Well, you liberals think blah blah blah," you might as well not bother. First and foremost, I'm hardly a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Nor am I anywhere near a staunch conservative. I hate labels. Opposing sides on many complex issues oftentimes bring well-considered points to the table, and rarely are they as cut-and-dry as partisan sound bites portray them. My own problem is that I try to educate myself on the various sides of just about every issue, and the information overload drives me freaking mad. But that's a whole 'nuther issue anyway.

As for Congressman Akin, I'm sure you know what he said about pregnancies resulting from rape, but here's the primary offending remark: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."

Legitimate rape. Now there's a fine term. That, to me, appears to stem from a condescending — if not contemptuous — attitude toward women. As if there's such a thing as "illegitimate" rape. While Akin claims he "misspoke," I don't buy it. I think his off-the-cuff remarks expressed exactly what he thought. My real problem here is less about Akin as an individual than the socially conservative mindset of which he is representative.

First and foremost, I, as a male, can only imagine the trauma of a rape, particularly one that results in an unwanted pregnancy. Same goes for Akin and every other male lawmaker, on whichever side of the political aisle. But I'm going beyond this single example to express some thoughts on abortion overall. My main thought on the topic is this: if you're a conservative and favor smaller government, then you and your lawmakers should butt the hell out of the issue. Leave the decision to made by individual women and their doctors.

Or do you believe that they are simply too stupid to know better than you what they should do? Some conservative, you.

In situations where a woman has been raped, or has a fetus that is not viable outside the womb, or faces a life-threatening situation, a state that denies her the right to make her own choice is absolutely monstrous. Yes, I am aware that there are at least some conservatives who would make exceptions in those extreme cases, and I applaud them. But particularly as of these past couple of years, the voices of those who would make no exceptions have clearly increased, if not in number, then in the shrillness of their trumpeting.

Now, from a simply rationalistic perspective, I don't buy personhood beginning at conception. What you have there is a mass of cells that, without interference, will eventually develop into a human being. Life, yes, but not a full-fledged, aware, and — dare I say it — soul-possessing human being. That said, psychologically, for a woman — and an involved male partner — the decision to have an abortion is murderous enough (pardon the crass expression). Indeed, if my significant other were in the position of having to make such a decision, I don't know whether I could handle the trauma of terminating the life inside her.

But it's not my body. It's not for me to say how she can or cannot deal with it. A woman should have the freedom to deal with it as her conscience guides her. You tell me, is that not the true conservative ideal?

Okay, yeah, well, I know, we've got to protect those precious babies, right? And the Bible says to be fruitful and multiply, yes? While I am anything but a social Darwinist, I am a pragmatist. Back in those fabulous days of yore, the earth was an almost infinite place; as an added bonus, disease and pestilence made for effective population control. You needed to multiply in order to assure a future for your family, your community, your civilization.

Nowadays? Eh... not so much. We're a species struggling to find room to thrive. We fight for our limited resources. We're living longer. So we're eating the earth. Quite frankly, when it comes down to it, I favor the rights of those who are already here. Little, to me, is more wicked than forcing a new life into this world, particularly when, in the interest of your own selfish well-being, you don't want to put your money where your mouth is and take care of the young one that might otherwise have been aborted — and you sure as hell don't want to be made to share by the government.

If you are absolutely anti-abortion, and you have adopted or sponsored a child that would have been aborted, then you are saintly, and your existence is worthy. You are a true philanthropist. However, if you would force a woman to have an unwanted child, to likely perpetuate that which you find so offensive — a human being that the odds do not favor becoming a productive, positive member of society — and you are not actively supporting the life that would have been terminated otherwise, you are simply talking out your ass and really not worth the time of day.

All that said, none of this should be construed as meaning I favor abortion. I absolutely do not. I do not condone abortion simply because a baby is inconvenient. Even in a worst-case scenario, if a woman makes the choice to keep a baby conceived by rape or incest — or even has the baby and offers it for adoption — then that is clearly wisdom. More power to her; it's the most likely means of preventing deep regret later. I do not feel she should be forced into that situation.

And that, as they say, is that, from the old prehistoric radioactively mutated flying rubber reptile, who is now going to go back to writing a novel.

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