Akin: When I Was Talking About "Legitimate" Rape, I Meant "Forcible" Rape

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 20 2012 1:35 PM

Akin: When I Was Talking About "Legitimate" Rape, I Meant "Forcible" Rape

Mike Huckabee wears two hats. He hosts a radio show and a TV show, and on them, he acts like a common sense broker between common folks. At the same time, he heads HuckPAC, which endorses candidates for office at all levels. In that latter capacity, Huckabee backed Todd Akin in the 2012 Missouri U.S. Senate primary. It was only fair for Akin to come on Huckabee's radio show and try to recover from the "legitimate rape" story.

So Huckabee gave Akin a chance to apologize for the comment, and he did -- he said something that was "wrong," and hurtful to rape victims. Good so far. But right after that, Huckabee prodded Akin to define what he meant by "legitimate." Did he mean "forcible"?

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Yes, said Akin. "I was talking about forcible rape," he said. "I used the wrong word."

Hang on -- "forcible rape"? If that term perplexes you, go back to the 2011 controversy over the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The first version of the law created a dilineation between "rape" and "forcible rape," which Nick Baumann noticed first and explained best.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.

"Forcible" was taken out of the bill; because Democrats run the Senate, the whole package was doomed, anyway. But this was the "out" that Huckabee gave to Akin. He confirmed that Akin still sees a difference between, say, a drunken date rape from a violent knifepoint rape, and that abortion should be illegal if the "lesser" rape results in a pregnancy.

That was good enough for Huckabee. "He said 'What I said was wrong,'" explained the host. "He apologized profusely."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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