By Garth A. Rattray
As a physician, I was stunned and appalled when United States congressman and member of the House Committee on Science and Technology (of all things), Todd Akin, said, while defending his anti-abortion stance during a St Louis television interview, "It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape ... aah ... 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; I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the child."
Congressman Akin embarrassed himself, the Republican Party and jeopardised the crucial Missouri Senate race. Naturally, the Republican Party bigwigs, presidential contender Mitt Romney included, begged him to step aside.
And, of course, the Democrats were all over him for his ridiculous statement. President Obama quipped that the Republican congressman "somehow missed
Just for the record; women can and will become pregnant as long as enough spermatozoa can get to an egg at the right time, in the right place and once the conditions are right for implantation of the fertilised egg.
Types of rape
I view rape as a vile, invasive and extremely cruel act that eternally degrades and literally kills part of the victim. There are so many types of rape that I am confining my comments solely to mentally competent adult males raping mentally competent adult females.
Rape has taken on several modern-day variations, like date rape, drug rape and marital or spousal rape. But, as far as the law is concerned ... rape is rape. The use of a real or imitation weapon and/or the use of violence attract additional charges on their own.
The most well-known rape involves assault by a stranger or someone known to, and even perhaps trusted by, the victim. In date rape, at some point, the female decides not to 'go all the way', but he completes the act anyway. In drug rape, the assailant renders his victim helpless, then rapes her. Then there is marital-spousal rape, wherein sexual intercourse takes place even though the female is an unwilling participant but is physically assaulted, threatened, intimidated or disempowered.
For a peaceful life
Victims of marital-spousal rape sometimes remain in the abusive relationship 'for a peaceful life', because they are in denial or fearful of violence, in financial need, for the sake of the children, because of societal/peer pressure, embarrassment, out of self-blame or fealty for/romantic ties towards their abuser.
So, whereas Congressman Akin's biology and sensitivity are off by light years, I believe that, by 'legitimate rape', he meant the type of rape where a stranger or familiar individual uses violence or the threat of violence to commit the reprehensible act.
Here is my problem: If a couple are dating and things get to where consensual intercourse is about to take place but the lady suddenly decides against going through with it and her date completes the act amid her minor verbal protestations, he will be convicted of rape in the same way that a stranger - even a serial rapist who ambushes a terrified woman and forces himself upon her - is convicted.
In my opinion, no man should have intercourse with any woman who even appears as if she might be unwilling. However, the latter rape sited in the example above should attract a far more severe penalty than the former.
It's time that legal systems officially classify rape and increase the sentence in appropriate instances. Treating them the same severely diminishes the more aggressive rapes.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.