KATIE ZERR: We need to know the person, not the party

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In his own words, Rep. Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican, has twice this week stated reasons that voters in this country need to get to know who candidates are and what they represent before casting a ballot in November.

Akin, during an interview with KTVI, he was asked whether or not abortion should be legal in the case of rape, explained that a woman who has suffered a rape has the physical ability to prevent pregnancy.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said of rape-induced pregnancy. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

He later apologized and said he misspoke. After repeated calls from all sides of the political arena, including the leaders of his own party, Akin said people, including the liberal media, were after him.

Liberal media? Even Rush Limbaugh and Shawn Hannity have called him on the carpet for letting out this dirty little secret about the beliefs of some members of Congress.

Akin’s total ignorance about women’s bodies and what rape really is is the issue here. He didn’t misspeak. He believes what he said. He showed his ignorance about what rape is, but also about the physical and emotional aftermath.

These words must certainly shake freethinking people. It reflects the attitude that some have that a woman can prevent rape and that they cannot be raped by their husband or partners. There are people in Congress who believe what Akin believes; he just said it out loud.

Idaho state Sen. Chuck Winder recently justified his opposition to abortion in cases of rape by questioning whether women really knew what rape was.

“I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape,” he told colleagues during a debate over an anti-abortion bill.

This is what we get when we vote for the label rather than for person. Voting for someone simply because they belong to one party or another or voting against someone for the same reason, results in the people getting inferior representation.

Last year, Akin and most of the House Republicans approved a bill that would have narrowed the exceptions to the laws banning federal funding for abortion—from all cases of rape to cases of forcible rape.

Pro-life advocates believed they needed to include the word forcible in the law to preempt what was called a brazen effort by Planned Parenthood and other groups to obtain federal funding for abortions for any teenager falsely claiming statutory rape.

The idea that there is a difference between forcible rape and any other is repugnant. All rape is forced, whether it is physical or emotional force. Women and men who endure an unwanted sexual act are forced to do so.

The idea that women who are “legitimate” rape victims can’t get pregnant is also fundamentally and statistically wrong. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, estimates that 5 percent of rapes lead to pregnancy. A 1996 study from the Medical University of South Carolina found the same percentage, adding that 32,101 pregnancies occurred annually from rape.

Rape is a horrendous experience that shakes a person to their core. It can make a woman question who she is and what she represents. It is emotionally shattering.

It changes the manner in which women interact with men and it creates a wound of mistrust that may never be healed.

Statistic show that 207,754 cases of rape and sexual abuse of victims 12 and older happen every year. Fifty-four percent of rapes are never reported and 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail.

These statistics reflect the aftermath of beliefs of men like Akin and Winder.

Only when we elect people who are not living in the dark ages, can we make a difference in these heartbreaking statistics.

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