What Did Those Few Words Tell Us?
I’m sure many women and men felt the same surge of sadness and anger as I did when hearing or
reading Congressman Todd Akin’s comment about exceptions to a ban on abortions. As I listened to
the news reports and analysis, another of Congressman Akin’s comments could be heard. He said, “if
a rape occurs, the child should not be punished, the perpetrator should be punished”. For
women and girls suffering from any form of violence, both comments bring great consternation. Rape
is “always” forcible, cruel, inhumane and spirit stripping but to be dismissed, to be held invisible in the
equation also brings an oppressive burden. To bring attention to the product of a rape but not to speak
to the suffering of the actual victim of the rape, for me, is the greatest offense of all.
Due to the ruckus caused by Congressman Akin’s comments, NBC News conducted an interview with
me in which I began by stating I was appalled but not surprised. I am old enough to remember the
first and second iterations of the belief that a woman should reproduce first and foremost, even if the
conception was non consensual, even if it killed her. I believe the most fundamental human right we
possess is our right to control our bodies and reproduction. That right is being chipped away in plain
view. It didn’t begin with the comments. It has been happening in many states where to secure the
legal pregnancy termination procedure, a woman must go through horrendous and intrusive processes
that include transvaginal ultrasounds where the fetus must be seen or being forced to sit through
presentations of fetal development. In one state, physicians may be required to give unscientific
information on development and potential consequences of the procedure. One state legislative
bill allows physicians to withhold positive pregnancy results if they believe the woman is going to
terminate the pregnancy.
This legislative trend demonstrates the level of violence against women and girls that is considered legal
and necessary to remind us that we are second class citizens that have no rights to our bodies, medical
care and ultimately our lives.
We can stop it. We have done it before. We fought for our rights and we won even though the victory
was fleeting. We took our eyes off the prize and now we must bring the focus back. One of the most
important actions we can take is to support pro choice candidates running for office on any and all
levels. We must work for them in any capacity. We have a decision to make. We have had another
wake up call. Will we heed the continual warnings? If we don’t, we will lose our progress. That is an
unimaginable picture. Let’s dialogue through this blog about ways we can stop the rollback of rights.
We must speak our truths and raise our voices together.