I recently received an e-mail from a reader. The author didn’t specify whether or not they wished their identity to be known, so I have not included it here. If the author wishes, that person may choose to identify themselves in the comments. Here is the question:
I know you are outside the US, but one of the subjects that has been glossed over in the Presidential race is Romney’s view on rape. He states that he allows for abortion in the case of rape or incest, but has refused to illuminate the particulars, especially after Todd Aiken’s outrageous comments re:”legitimate rape”.
From my own experience in the mormondum, the church has very strict guidelines given to the bishopric and stake presidents as to what constitutes legitimate rape. The victim has to fight and has to scream loud enough to be heard. In my case, I asked (during my church court “hearing”) what if you are tied up? gagged? what if they threaten your toddler daughter sleeping in the next room?
None of that applied. And it was noted by the bishops first counselor that had I been righteous, the Lord would have taken me (I would have died) before the assault. Also, in the State of Utah, even if convicted, in the case of incest the judge has the right to waive jail time for the convicted rapist.
I believe this is a legitimate line of inquiry to ascertain Romney’s views on the subject. But I can’t get anyone to be more pointed in asking this question. Any thoughts on a post on this?
Establishing a legitimate line of inquiry on any issue related to Governor Flip-Flop is difficult due to general lack of consistency, but let’s do our best to establish the larger context here. A quick search on YouTube yielded this hall of shame of rape quotes:
These comments are so horrible that only comedy can make sense of them:
A full timeline of Republican RapeGate 2012 would fill five blog posts, so I’ve tried to pick out the most prominent events from the War on Women that have to do with rape. I hope that I can use these events to string together a narrative on why Republicans have stepped in it over and over again when it comes to rape.
January 28 – Redefining Rape
Mother Jones reports on the Republican plan to decriminalise non-forcible rape. Under proposed legislation, rape would only be really rape in cases where women struggled, screamed, or attempted to fight off their attacker. Pregnancies resulting from assaults where a woman was unable to put up a fight due to being frightened, coerced, too young, incapacitated, or disabled would no longer be considered “rape” and would not be eligible for most forms of financial assistance for an abortion.
Why would Republicans take this position?
It’s in the Bible. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 makes it clear that if a woman has sex with a man in a location where others might be able to hear her cries for help, she wasn’t raped and should be stoned to death as an adulterer. Verses 25 and 26 make it clear that if a woman is raped in a location where nobody could have heard her scream out, then only the rapist should be killed and the woman should be spared.
This is where the concept of “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape” come from. Jews and Christians who actually read the Old Testament and understand it will naturally arrive at this conclusion. Let’s repeat that: The Bible specifies that rape isn’t rape unless a woman cries out for help. Staying silent for any reason — roofies, a gun to the head, or the threat of violence to people in the next room — means it isn’t really rape.
February 16 – State Sponsored Penetration
Slate reports on a proposed Virginia law that would require women seeking abortions to receive a medically unnecessary vaginal probe whether they wanted it or not, leaving them with the choice of being sexually assaulted by their doctor or carrying an unwanted fetus to term.
Why would Virginia Republicans do this?
The Bible can shed some light once again. Women are described quite clearly as property to be managed by men. They are listed behind cattle in many cases describing property distribution, and abduction and rape was considered a legitimate means of securing a wife. Exodus 21, Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 20, Deuteronomy 21, Deuteronomy 22, 2 Samuel 12, Judges 5, and Judges 21 are just a few very clear examples of the status of women in the sight of Yahweh. Opposition to abortion is almost exclusively based on biblical-based belief. Is it surprising that people who utilise this book for their moral compass would merely reflect the callous misogyny found in its pages? These men don’t hate women. They just don’t know how to love them as full human beings.
March 6 – Women are Livestock
Georgia State Representative Terry England compares women to chickens, cows, and pigs giving birth while arguing against an exception to Georgia’s strict abortion laws that would allow women with non-viable fetuses to obtain abortions rather than carry them to term, only to result in stillbirth or instant death of the baby. The bill later passes.
Why would Republicans in Georgia do this?
Women having the status of livestock is in the Bible. Noticing a trend yet, anyone? The Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) treats a woman as exactly the same as a man’s other pieces of property: his house, his servants, his ox, his donkey, or any other personal effects. Including his wife.
April 5 – Women are Caterpillars
GOP Chairman Reince Priebus dismisses the idea of a Republican War on Women as fictional as a “war on caterpillars.”
Why would the leader of the Republican Party say this?
We may live in a modern world where Christians heavily cherry-pick from their scripture, but there are still consequences to reading a sloppy text written by nomadic warlords and strung together by politicians thousands of years later. In the Bible, men are the prophets, lawmakers, priests, and kings. God is male and so is his son. Women are auxiliary substances to maleness. They are on the same level as real estate, livestock, and household goods. Is it really that surprising that someone who chooses the Bible as his ultimate moral guide would be influenced by its lack of serious treatment of women as full human beings?
August 19 – Legitimate Rape Can’t Cause Pregnancy
Senate candidate Todd Akin insists that “legitimate rape” cannot result in pregnancy. This implies that the 30,000+ women every year who conceive after rape must have enjoyed the attack and therefore can’t complain about the government forcing them to bear their attacker’s child.
Why would a Republican Senate Candidate say this?
This goes right back to Deuteronomy 22, where rape isn’t rape unless it’s physically forcible and the woman screams for help. Anything else, according to the Bible, isn’t really rape.
August 20 – Romney Condemns Akin
Mitt Romney calls Akin’s words “insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.” Romney, Ryan, and other GOP higher-ups call for Akin to resign from the race, which he refuses to do.
Why would the Republican Presidential Candidate say this?
At the time I hoped it was because Romney, a former pro-choice candidate, was at least reasonable enough to see that comments like this are horribly offensive and political cyanide. Also, being Mormon rather than Catholic or mainstream Christian, he’s able to adhere to official LDS policy of allowing abortion in cases of rape. The fact that this reaction may have been part of an effort to get a more palatable Republican candidate in the Missouri senate race did come to my mind but I could not be sure.
Until . . .
October 23 – Rape Pregnancy is a gift from God
On October 23, Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana expressed his belief that even when conception occurs as the result of rape, it is a “Gift from God” and no abortion should be permitted. Romney, who the previous day had endorsed Mourdock with the only television commercial he has ever recorded for a fellow candidate for office, sends an aide to release a mild statement saying that he does not share Mourdock’s position, but continues to support him for office.
Why would Romney do this?
I don’t think Mitt Romney cares much about the issue of rape at all. When it was politically convenient, he spoke out against Akin. This allowed him to appear chivalrous and to help his party by trying to get rid of a toxic candidate and find a replacement before the ballot deadline. In Mourdock’s case it’s too late. Pulling support for Mourdock this late in the season would mean automatic victory for the Democrats. As usual for the wannabe CEO-in-Chief, politics take precedent over principle. Achieving the goal of the White House and Republican control of the Senate as well as the House is far more important than defending the rights of women to the GOP. That’s the business they are in. Their goal is power, not compassion. Let’s not be sentimental or hand-wringing about that reality.
So What Now?
Perhaps the GOP will continue to add to RapeGate, but hopefully they’ll adhere to the wisdom of Steven Colbert in this case.
As far as Romney goes, I believe that if elected he would continue along the Republican Party’s path of strict Biblical literalism when it comes to legislating the status of women. Romney isn’t quite the same as a Christian for the purposes of this discussion, as he adheres to additional authorities like the Book of Mormon and the President of LDS, inc. Mormonism lacks the clear-cut Canon Law that Paul Ryan can adhere to, making it harder to know exactly what he would believe. The closest thing that the organisation has is the Church Handbook of Instructions. The boring half has been made public on LDS.org, but the really good secret stuff is periodically leaked online. The most recent edition of CHI Book One contains some pretty revealing information.
Nowhere in the Church Handbook of Instructions are Priesthood authorities told that they should immediately inform civil authorities when they learn of a crime. The book simply tells them when formal versus informal religious discipline should be imposed.
In section 6.7.3 of CHI Volume one, murder and incest are mentioned. Bishops and Stake Presidents are told how to contact internal LDS Authorities regarding spiritual discipline. Nothing is mentioned about contacting police. Later on the same page, Priesthood leaders are informed that people identified as predators must have a disciplinary hearing. Once again, there is no mention of alerting proper authorities.
Section 6.10.3 informs Mormon leaders that “aggrieved victims” should be counseled internally by the Church’s own helpline. “Great care must be taken,” the passage reads, “to avoid causing further trauma, especially to a victim of physical or sexual abuse.” Ironically, the Church’s prime policy document says nothing about reporting abuse to doctors, law enforcement, or professional services for abuse victims — which greatly increases the chances of creating further trauma.
The Church Handbook of Instructions is a treasure trove of bizarre and shocking policies, but what I’ve listed here should present a broad enough picture of what the problem is when it comes to Alpha Mormon Males like Mitt Romney and the issue of sexual violence against women: there is nothing in their training or culture that would lead them to treat sexual violence as seriously as the integrity and reputation of the church. Without explicitly stating that crimes like murder, rape, and incest should be immediately reported to police, the CHI creates a web of policies that will encourage Mormon leaders to keep these issues as internal matters. This leaves children and women who have been victimized at the mercy of male lay ministers who have no professional qualifications when it comes to dealing with criminals or assisting victims.
This is why, unlike so many Republican goose-steppers, I find the story about Mitt Romney’s efforts to stop a life-saving abortion to be entirely plausible. It’s also why I find the prospect of a Romney-Ryan presidency and the possible impact on the U.S. Supreme Court’s makeup to be horrifying.
Rape is rape is rape. And rape is evil. And no woman should be forced by the government to bear the child of her attacker. And no legislator should presume to meddle in this area. How many times have we got to say it? Perhaps I’m not articulate enough on the subject. Perhaps this gentleman can help me say it more clearly: