Rep. Todd Akin, currently running for the U.S. Senate in the state of Missouri, showed this weekend exactly why candidates of any political stripe should rarely try to quote science, especially bad science.
If you missed it, Akin answered a question in a debate regarding being opposed to abortion, even in the case of rape, by saying that getting pregnant by rape is rare and that a woman’s body has “ways to shut the whole thing down”.
He also got deeper into trouble when he qualified those statements by saying, “in cases of legitimate rape..” That part of his comments brought an explosive reaction from the blogosphere.
But I found that the curious part of his outrageous statement was that he started it by saying, “from what I understand from doctors…”
Either Rep. Akin was talking to doctors that currently only play ones on TV, or he was simply trying to sound as if he understood the science behind rape and pregnancy.
Regardless of where Rep. Akin received his medical advice, his comments exploded on social media immediately and to such a degree that the Romney campaign was compelled to issue a statement that they did not agree with Akin’s comments in any way.
Akin himself issued a statement later in the day saying that he misspoke and that “his comments didn’t reflect the empathy he has for the thousands of women who are raped and abused each year.”
Beyond the political ramifications of his original comments, I believe Akin’s comments show how things get sticky very quickly when trying to apply science to an emotional and moral issue.
Abortion has been controversial in the United States for generations, and will likely continue to be for many more. But it is an issue that revolves more around morality than it does science.
The science of the scenario is fairly simple. Modern science has defined that life begins at conception.
The morality of the issue is what divides people on the issue. Is an embryo that lives within a uterus an individual with rights, or is it part of the body where it resides?
Part of where Rep. Akin went off the rails is when he tried to answer that question with a scientific answer and not a moral answer.
If someone believes that there are conditions based on when an embryo is an individual or a body part, that is fine. But to explain those conditions based on scientific statistics simply ignores the real morality that needs to be addressed.
If Rep. Akin believes that abortion should be illegal, even in the case of rape, those beliefs should be based on his viewpoint of an embryo and not how often it may happen or if some doctors advised him that women can somehow take care of that kind of situation naturally.
If Rep. Akin answered the question based on the morality of the issue, he may not have won any pro-choice votes, but he would not have sound as ludicrous as he did when he tried to apply “science” to the issue.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.