It’s election time down in the United States, which means it’s time for divisiveness, vitriol, and a political climate that is perhaps more polarized than any time since the Civil War. It is a biennial struggle filled with overcharged rhetoric, empty promises, and gaffes a plenty – a dream come true for late-night comedians. Election season in the U.S. also has a tendency to expose some of America’s most extreme and dim-witted politicians and candidates – most of whom would not stand a chance in an election in Canada. These individuals tend to show themselves on the national stage by making highly controversial statements on the most personal and private of issues.
Let me introduce you to Congressman Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican currently running for the U.S. Senate.
In a recent interview, when asked if he supported abortion for women who had been raped, Representative Akin told the reporter that “It seems to me first of all, 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”.
Aside from a fundamental misunderstanding of biology (ironically, Akin is a member of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology), Akin’s comments demonstrate a politicization of the very definition of sexual assault, as well as a marginalization of victims of the implied ‘illegitimate rape.’ It is a disturbing comment that is misogynistic and deeply offensive to many women. Not surprisingly, Akin’s statement has left him embroiled in a political firestorm that has even Mitt Romney suggesting that he drop out of the Senate race. Akin has claimed he “misspoke,” but nonetheless remains resilient in continuing his campaign – claiming that he “[hasn’t] done anything morally or ethically wrong.”
Unfortunately, Akin is just one of many U.S. politicians that seem to believe that they have the right to make decisions on behalf of women in regards to reproductive rights and health that are based solely upon uneducated opinions. It seems ironic that Akin and his supporters and colleagues are staunchly against government intervention in the economy and other individual issues, yet whole-heartedly support it when it comes to women’s health. The issue of abortion rights is an extremely contentious and emotional debate, and only made worse when ignorant politicians make ludicrous claims.
I guess it just isn’t a U.S. election cycle without some level of crazy, ideologically divisive politics after all.
Graeme Archibald is a fourth-year Political Science Honors student with an unhealthy interest in American politics which usually leave him shaking his head.