It has been obvious for some time now that a dangerous lunatic fringe has been infiltrating mainstream American politics through an alarmingly weakened Republican Party, and the ranting of ignoramuses is being foisted on an unsuspecting nation as eternal truths.
Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri took the discourse, if it can be called that, to a new low Sunday when he loftily proclaimed in a radio interview that “legitimate rape” does not lead to pregnancy. “If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” he said. Mr. Akin, who is seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate, corrected himself later to say that he meant “forcible rape” does not lead to pregnancy.
The understandable firestorm that has developed over such remarks has made it clear that the belief that rape cannot lead to pregnancy is not new to the thinking of those who are seeking to abolish abortions. It can be traced back at least to 1980s speeches by several conservatives, one of the most prominent being John C. Willke, a physician, who, as president of the National Right to Life Committee, made the preposterous claim: “Assault rape pregnancies are extremely rare.”
There is room for the ongoing debate of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows for abortions. Indeed, there is urgent need for dialogue on whether abortion available on demand has tainted the nation’s perspective on the overall sanctity of life. But those who have been arguing that it does do not advance their cause when they resort to chicanery or, worse, present themselves as learned when they waddle in abject ignorance.
The abhorrence of scientific truths by some of those on the far right of the political spectrum is not just amazing. It is downright astonishing. They say, for instance, that because it has snowed off-season in Washington, D.C., that means there is no global warming.
The tragedy is that in various places around our country we are electing some of these snake oil sellers to our legislative bodies, where they help pass laws under which we have to live. If there is to be a debate on abortion, on climate change, on any other subject that impacts our lives, let us at least be smart enough, as leaders of the world, to be intelligent about it.