“You know, this is that issue that every candidate for federal or even state office faces. And I have to certainly stand for life. I know that there are some who disagree, and I respect their point of view. But I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have on abortion is in that case — of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Two ways to read that last line. One, the “Democrats really need this seat in Indiana” interpretation: Mourdock thinks rape is morally A-OK, at least when it results in pregnancy. Two, the “I can’t believe we’re talking about this” interpretation: He thinks rape is monstrous but that human life is sacred, therefore conception reflects divine will even if the circumstances that lead to it do not. Is there a theodicean conundrum in that? Arguably, sure, but the left’s not dogging him here because he’s caught in a philosophical jam. They’re dogging him because their “war on women” demagoguery simply won’t allow them to let pass an opportunity to paint a Republican as “pro-rape,” especially after the uproar over Akin and especially with a presidential election bearing down that might be decided by the width of the gender gap. I’d love to know what percentage of Dems secretly understand full well what he meant but are making hay over this anyway versus the percentage of liberal true believers who’ve convinced themselves that he really does see rape as some sort of religious sacrament or whatever. I’d bet the split is something on the order of 80/20, although maybe I’m telling myself that just because a lesser ratio would be too depressing.
Someone (I forget who) was complaining on Twitter last night that it’s only pro-lifers who ever get tough follow-up questions to their stated views on abortion, so here’s some of my own for our famously religious president the next time he sits down for an interview. Real simple: Does God wish children of rape didn’t exist? If not, what’s O’s issue with Mourdock? If so, how is it that those children do exist? “Free will” — of a rapist? Should the child be told that God wishes he didn’t exist but that his rapist dad’s degeneracy carried the day? What other types of people, besides children of rape, does God wish didn’t exist? A six-year-old is capable of grasping simultaneously that (a) rape is atrocious and yet (b) a child conceived by it is blameless and capable of great things. That’s what makes rape exceptions to abortion bans morally difficult, even if you come down on the side of allowing the exception. Our politics, it seems, is not capable of grasping that even on a good day, let alone two weeks out from an election.
As for the Akin comparisons, no dice. James Taranto:
Mourdock gave a straightforward and thoughtful answer, if an impolitic one, to the question that was posed, one that made clear he appreciates its (albeit only hypothetical) moral gravity. Akin, by contrast, attempted to avoid the question by arguing that it was irrelevant.
That argument was unsound because it was based on an unfounded empirical premise, one that is generally understood to be false–namely that rape never causes pregnancy, or does so with such infrequency as to constitute a negligible problem. (There is some evidence, though it is far from conclusive, that this is the opposite of the truth: As the Washington Post reported in August, “one provocative study” in 2003 “found that a single act of rape was more than twice as likely to result in pregnancy than [sic] an act of consensual sex.”)
Largely lost amid the hubbub over Akin’s Orwellian phrase “legitimate rape” was its logical centrality to his flawed argument. He evidently knew there were counterexamples that would disprove his premise, so he resorted to the “No-True-Scotsman Move”…
Right. Akin’s big defense after that blew up was that he’d chosen his words poorly in describing “legitimate rape.” But that wasn’t really the issue; the issue was the junk science he floated about women supposedly having some sort of biological defense to conception by rape, which, as Taranto explains, was really his way of dodging the moral dilemma at the heart of argument. Apples and oranges.