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Legitimate Rape

It had to be done; let’s talk about “legitimate rape.”
In case you haven’t heard, Missouri Republican representative Todd Akin made a controversial statement this weekend about his views on abortion. At first, his views, stated in an interview with KTVI-TV on Sunday, were nothing surprising. He said that while he is pro-life, he has no problem with abortion if the child has no chance of survival and the health of the mother is at risk.
But then he shot himself in the foot. 
When asked about abortion in the case of rape, the representative said, “From what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy caused by rape) is 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 maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.”
Inconsiderate doesn’t even begin to describe this statement. The word “legitimate” reeks of victim blaming, and Akin is full of bad science. What do you say to the women who have been “legitimately” raped and became “legitimately” pregnant as a result? 
Akin might have misspoken, but if that is the case, the representative would do well to be more careful.  His party is already under fire for comments about women, particularly after all of the debates about birth control earlier this year. This conversation can be had without being offensive and without insulting people who are already victims.
Akin is pro-life, which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone considering his party membership, and he is entitled to his own opinion on abortion. But he doesn’t get to make statements on whether or not a rape is legitimate or use bad science on how the female body works to defend his statements.
I don’t really think there is necessarily a “war on women,” but I do think there is a lot of misunderstanding and refusal to compromise on issues. Like most things in politics, this would all be a lot easier to deal with if both sides would be willing to not cling too tightly to their own views and listen to one another. 
If we keep using such extreme language to support our views, we aren’t going to get anything done. We’ll just make the other side angry. Talking about “legitimate rape” or how Republicans hate women isn’t the way to have an open dialogue about abortion and get anything done. We’re just perpetuating conflict with such extreme language and causing pain to those who have been actually harmed by the situations we’re arguing about.
Megan Massey is a senior religious studies from Mount Olive. Follow her on Twitter @megan_massey.