The Femo: Richard Mourdock and the meaning of rape

Richard Mourdock

by Olivia Conetta

Just two months after Todd Akin’s (R-MO) “forcible rape” blunder comes yet another politician who doesn’t understand what rape means. Earlier this week, Richard Mourdock, the Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, answered a debate question about abortion by expressing his belief that “life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Backtracking on his comment, he later said, “I don’t think God wants rape.”

Mourdock does not understand that no one but the rapist wants the rape to happen. The important thing for Mourdock (and Akin) to understand about rape is that it’s not consensual. Whether one believes that God willed the life that came about from rape is irrelevant — the woman did not want the rape to happen, and a child born as a result of rape likely was unwanted. While I respect Mourdock’s (or anyone’s) decision to be pro-life, even though I disagree, I do not respect his misconception of rape.

If his campaign doesn’t tank, Mourdock could soon be in the Senate and influence women’s rights policy the next six years. What’s scarier than Mourdock’s comments, though, is that he isn’t the only one with these backwards views on rape — William Saletan argues in Slate that banning abortion even for rape victims is the “new Republican mainstream.”

This is troubling news for women who support economically conservative policies, socially liberal policies, and the separation of church and state. Such women might feel torn between their support for Mitt Romney’s economic plans and President Obama’s support for liberal social issues. A recent Politico piece on undecided voters describes a female voter who “prefers the president on issues like abortion, employer-provided contraception, and equal pay for women. But she is very worried about her mounting student loan debt and her job prospects.”

Her comment should serve as a warning to the Republican Party that their views on social issues might be turning some women away from their party, despite their support for conservative economic policy.

Mitt Romney still supports Mourdock’s campaign. Andrea Saul, his spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the Romney campaign “disagree(s) on the policy regarding rape and incest but still support him.” Romney would be wise to pull his support for Mourdock if he wants female voters to think he has sensible views on the issues that affect them.

Romney also wouldn’t face much opposition among Republican voters at large if he denounced Mourdock. The vast majority of Republicans consider rape, life of the mother, and incest to be suitable exceptions for abortion. It’s time for the Republican Party to shift left on abortion rights. Understanding what rape means and how that might impact a woman’s decision of whether to get an abortion is the first step.