On Sunday morning, Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) told a reporter from KTVI the following:
“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape is] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
Congressman Akin sits on the House Science Committee. The SCIENCE committee. And apparently, he thinks that women’s bodies have a magical power to avert conception during rape. As long as it’s legitimate rape.
His comments are so outrageous as to be comical. Unfortunately, the joke is on us. Because he is intimately involved in deciding what is or is not legal to do with OUR bodies.
There has, of course, been a firestorm following the ill-fated interview. Anyone who needs a vote has come out to condemn Akin. And every talking head from here to Timbuktu has had something to say about it.
The question that I’ve heard repeated most often in the past thirty-six hours has been, “How will this affect the women’s vote in the Missouri Senate election?” And all I can think is, “Reeeeeeeeally? That’s the question we should be asking?”
I am horrified by this whole situation. We are all entitled to our beliefs about abortion. It’s a tough, tough issue and not one that I have any interest in debating here. But holy crap. How is it possible that the people who would decide our fate – who would make laws about our bodies and how we care for them, what our insurance can and can’t cover and who would set priorities for massive amounts of research dollars and healthcare subsides – have so little understanding of who we are?
Legitimate rape? The man said, ‘legitimate rape.’
This scared me. It really, truly scared me.
Yesterday, President Obama said that Akin’s comments “underscore why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”
And that was when it hit me.
Last week, I had a pretty deep conversation with Liz Feld, the President of Autism Speaks. We were talking about the words that we use. About how we discuss autism in the public forum. About how difficult it can be to create a balanced perception of such a broad spectrum. About how we need to fight for help for the disabling aspects of autism while steering clear of demonizing it in order to do that. About how difficult it can be to set research priorities for such a wide array of people.
We had gotten into some of the nitty-gritty. I was explaining why a particular term was problematic and I said that I’d heard self-advocates condemn its use. She asked what they would prefer that we use. She really wanted to know how to better frame it. In context, the question came out, “So what do they want?”
It took me four days to answer the question. I finally wrote the following.
The other day, you asked me what they (self-advocates) want. I don’t know if you caught it – but I was somewhat stymied by the question. And it’s bothered me ever since. I wondered if I couldn’t answer it because perhaps I just didn’t have the handle on this that I thought I did.
But then I had a revelation.
I can’t answer the question because I’m not the one of whom it should be asked. They are.
What they want is representation. What they want is to be included in the decision-making process. What they want is for us to stop asking *each other* what they want.
What they want is to not be the “they” in this conversation but the US.
That’s the answer to your question.
Because after yesterday – watching a group of men in sharp suits argue in the public forum about what MY body can and can’t do and what I should or should not do with it, while it’s still not the same, I get it more than ever.