WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Todd Akin walked quietly off the public stage after being defeated by incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill on election night 2012 without blaming anyone, without casting aspersions, without excuses for his loss.
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Meanwhile, the same Republican political establishment that lost every other Senate race that year continued to pile on Akin, claiming his candidacy was responsible for the electoral disaster they oversaw while running away from the six-term Missouri member of Congress.
They are still blaming Akin today.
But others are coming to his defense.
In his new book, "Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom," Akin offers publicly for the first time a spirited defense of his campaign, including the words that were used to make his name a political byword.
So does Mike Huckabee, the Fox News Channel host and rising star of the Republican Party, in the form of a foreword to the book.
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"Todd didn't ask for a war with the party establishment, but he sure did get one," he writes. "No one in American politics knows better than I do the immediate bias and attacks that come from liberals and the media establishment when Christians with sincere convictions make a move into the political arena. We've got to deal with their attacks and have even come to expect them. More shocking are the attacks on social conservatives from party bosses, partisan power brokers and the entrenched GOP establishment. I'm deeply offended by this infighting within the Republican Party, because it is so destructive to the country we care so deeply about."
Huckabee says that party establishment never liked Akin in the first place. He wasn't their choice to run against McCaskill. When he beat their choice in the primary, the bosses weren't happy. In their eyes, he was already a loser – a lost cause. He adds that Akin never said anything negative about his Republican opponents – running only on his own ideas and record.
"I expected Democrats to pounce on Todd," Huckabee says regarding the infamous "legitimate rape" interview on a local TV show. "But I was disheartened and outraged when Republicans circled the wagons – not to support Todd and help him overcome an obstacle but instead as a firing squad pointed at the congressman."
Some say it was worse that a circular firing squad. Karl Rove not only pulled his funding for Akin's campaign and publicly denounced him, he added in a closed-door meeting of GOP donors: "We should sink Todd Akin. If he's found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts."
"There is something terribly ironic when the winning candidate in a primary who refused to say anything negative about his Republican opponents is attacked by one Republican after another," adds Huckabee. They sharpened their knives and got in line to repeatedly stab him in the back. Now, after the race, they are still saying, 'See, conservatives can't get elected!'"
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Oliver North had this to say about Akin's spirited defense of life that got him pilloried, first by partisan Democrats, then by the media and finally by the Republican establishment: "I admire Todd's stand for the sanctity of life. His steadfast resolve against an onslaught of media bullies and party bosses is the stuff of legend."
WND.com's Joseph Farah, who agreed to publish Akin's "Firing Back," had this to say: "I could never quite figure out what Todd Akin said that was so offensive to the supposedly pro-life Republicans who attacked him viciously. Had they actually watched the interview? It represents in its entirety one of the best articulations of the life ethic. There's simply nothing in there that is factually wrong or offensive – unless you are looking to be offended by something. I have watched that interview over and over again in context. Even the interviewer clearly didn't see anything in Akin's words to indicate a 'gotcha.' He quickly moved on to a different subject without missing a beat. This wasn't even a minor gaffe. He was technically and scientifically accurate in what he said. This was an example of a media and political lynching."
WND reported last week that while two new fertility studies showing stress in males and females inhibits pregnancy have received worldwide attention, no one, to date, has linked them with the biggest U.S. political controversy of 2012 – Akin's suggestion that pregnancy as a result of rape is rare.
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When asked in a local television interview in August 2012 whether he would support abortion in the case of rape, Akin made the following statement, which led to a firestorm of criticism, denunciation and ridicule by many even in his own party, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
Akin's statement was attacked on two premises:
- the use of the term "legitimate rape," with some suggesting Akin was attempting to delegitimizing the crime of rape;
- that Akin was suggesting it is rare for rape victims to become pregnant as a result of the crime.
Akin takes on the first point in "Firing Back" by saying: "When a woman claims to have been raped, the police determine if the evidence supports the legal definition of 'rape.' Is it a legitimate claim of rape or an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy? Are the police warranted to take action against a crime or not? In short, the word 'legitimate' modifies the claim and not the action. There have been women who have lied about being raped, as Norman McCorvey did before the U.S. Supreme Court. The infamous Roe v. Wade decision of 1972 was based on a lie."
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On the second point, Akin writes: "My comment about a woman's body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization. This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google 'stress and fertilization,' and you will find a library of research on the subject. The research is not conclusive, but there is considerable evidence that stress makes conception more difficult. And what could be more stressful than a rape?"
See Akin's comments:
Akin also goes on to say that his critics twisted his remarks to suggest he was denying the possibility of pregnancy from forcible rape.
"In fact, several fantastic young Americans who campaigned with me were themselves the product s of rape," he writes. "And they were thankful I would stand with them."
Is Akin right that pregnancy seldom results from rape?
There's not much doubt about it. The studies pointing to the highest incidence suggest no more than 5 percent of rape victims become pregnant as a result of the attack. Many others suggest much lower numbers.
While Akin's comments were dominating the news cycle in August 2012, the Los Angeles Times assigned reporter Kim Geiger to look into the question.
"Surprisingly few hard facts and figures were available about the prevalence of rape-related pregnancies," she wrote. "Many news outlets, including this one, cited a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which estimated that more than 23,000 women experience a rape-related pregnancy each year. The report also concluded that 5 percent of rape victims become pregnant, which would mean that 640,000 rapes occur each year.
"But that figure doesn’t jibe with other reputable sources. For example, FBI data show that 95,769 forcible rapes were reported in 1996. The 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey calculates that 64,080 rapes occurred in 2004 and 2005,' she reported.
Yet, that seemingly questionable study in 1996 has formed the basis for many reports on the number of rapes that take place in America annually, the number of pregnancies that result and the percentage of rapes that result in pregnancy – all based on the assumption that pregnancies result from rape as often as they do from non-forcible sex acts.
In fact, no one knows how many pregnancies result from rape because no one is keeping records. But applying the 5 percent estimate to the 64,080 figure of rapes in 2004 and 2005 brings the pregnancy estimate down to 3,204, the figure used by the Justice Department's 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey. Still, it's only an estimate based on an assumption that pregnancy results from rape at the same rate as non-coercive sex.
However, new studies released on the fertility of men and woman suggest stress could greatly reduce the incidence of pregnancy.
Psychological stress may degrade sperm quality and sperm fertility, according to a study published May 29, 2014, in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
"Men who feel stressed are more likely to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate, and the sperm they have are more likely to be misshapen or have impaired motility," said researcher Pam Factor-Litvak, an epidemiologist at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, in a statement. "These deficits could be associated with fertility problems."
While the study did not specifically address the question of rape, it begs the question asked rhetorically by Todd Akin: "And what could be more stressful than a rape?"
But Akin's controversial comment in 2012 did not address the role of male fertility, but rather female fertility – the idea that "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Indeed other fertility studies this year might lend support to that claim.
- Professor Sarah Berga, from Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, specifically studied 16 women in their 20s and 30s who were normal weight but had not had a period for six months. She found they had high levels of the hormone cortisol, which is linked to stress. Half the group was given cognitive behavioral therapy that resulted in at least two pregnancies among the group. But the stress study has relevance beyond those who fail to ovulate, noted Berga. Cortisol is known as the "fight or flight hormone." It is produced within minutes of a stressful situation by the adrenal glands after receiving a message from the brain. In survival mode, the optimal amounts of cortisol can be life-saving. It helps to maintain fluid balance and blood pressure, while regulating some body functions like reproductive drive, immunity, digestion and growth, according to Dr. Amit Sood, director of Complementary and Integrative Medicine and chairman of Mayo Mind Body Initiative at the Mayo Clinic.
- Another infertility clinic found pregnancy rates soared when patients were visited after treatment by a comedian who cracked jokes and performed magic tricks – again, strongly linking pregnancy to reduced stress. Dr. Shevach Friedler of the Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre in Zerifin, Israel, released details of the study at Prague conference this spring. He said 93 women were visited by the comic while they were lying down for 15 minutes after embryos were implanted into their womb. A similar number were left alone. "To our surprise we found a significant difference," he said. "I didn't expect such a good result."
- Another study published in the journal Human Reproduction found a strong link between stress and infertility. Courtney Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, said it's common knowledge that women get pregnant while on vacation, or women with infertility problems become pregnant after adopting. She concluded it's not always coincidence. Again, the link is cortisol.
These studies were all widely reported in 2014, but no one mentioned the bruising Akin had received for making a similar point in 2012 – again, arguably the biggest controversy of the election year. Previous stress-pregnancy studies, conducted over many years, have produced similar results, as Akin notes in his book.
Akin hasn't given an interview to the media in 18 months. But he has broken that silence with the release of "Firing Back" July 15.
What else does he have to say? Akin, commended in a foreword to the book written by Mike
Huckabee for never resorting to ad hominem attacks on his political opponents, does not shy away from defending himself in "Firing Back":
- He points out his arguably awkward and misunderstood comment about rape came two weeks before a sexual predator and accused rapist, Bill Clinton, got a standing ovation for his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. He adds that same convention memorialized a man, Ted Kennedy, who let a young woman he preyed on drown to save his reputation. (pp. 129-130)
- When Rove, Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee abandoned Akin, he was in a virtual tie with incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill. But then his opponent was able to run a killer TV ad that asked the question: "Is Todd Akin fit to serve in the Senate? Mitt Romney doesn't think so." It closed with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., saying, "Frankly, he would not be welcome by Republicans in the United States Senate." (p. 169)
- He takes on McCaskill who won re-election by portraying herself as a "moderate." She said during the campaign: "Todd Akin would consider it an insult if you called him a moderate. I wear the term moderate like a badge of honor." Akin points out she voted 98 percent of the time with President Obama and "continued to support Obamacare even after Missourians resoundingly rejected it." (p. 88)
- What does he want to get out of this book? Is it written for revenge? To restart his political career? No, Todd Akin wants what he always wanted – what drove him to run for Congress successfully in the first place. "Everywhere, freedom's enemies are busy twisting word meanings and attempting to force their opinions on others through what is known as 'political correctness.' We should resist this tactic by defending the truth and each other, especially those on our own team. We need to defend truth especially in those areas where liberals are attacking."
- On the rapid growth of the superstate: "Before you forsake the crisp air and bright light on the high road of freedom, look well at the velvet-padded chains of government dependency. Although the government chains are well padded, they are chains nonetheless. They threaten to hold America's soul in the gloom, where vision is lost, where monotony and cynicism rule, and where the fresh air and bright sunlight of freedom are only a memory."
For Akin, government doesn't have all the answers. But he truly believes there are answers to be found – or, perhaps, rediscovered.
"True freedom builds from the bottom up, and it starts with our 'selves,'" he writes in "Firing Back." "In early America, when people heard the word government, they would first think of how each of us, led by God's Spirit, manages his or her own life. They called it 'self-government.' They understood that the character of a citizen was critical to the nature of the country. A nation peopled by wise, hardworking, loving citizens would be altogether different from a nation of dishonest, self-seeking rogues." (p. 178)
But to be a self-governing people, there must be consensus on what is right and wrong, Akin suggests.
"Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities to return to good ideas and refute bad ideas is through the church," he writes. "Churches exist in part to warn people of the bad consequences of bad ideas and teach obedience to God's laws. The source of the Founders' good ideas was the Bible. They saw the beautiful harmony between God's Word and the natural world around them. Today, for all the good work our pastors do, many make the mistake of not applying the Bible to the critical issues of our day. This is probably one of the most urgently needed changes in America." (p. 182)
Will critics find new reasons to guffaw in "Firing Back"?
For those who think it's controversial to string together the two words "legitimate rape," there's no doubt plenty of ammunition for the Akin-haters in "Firing Back."