How not to cultivate pro life leadership

November 16, 2012 § 25 Comments

I’m pretty cynical, but watching how pro-lifers have handled the Todd Akin hubbub has made it very clear to me exactly why the pro life movement as presently constituted is a lost cause.

There is absolutely nothing wrong or insensitive about what Todd Akin said.  Nothing.  The more times I read his actual words, the less I have to criticize about them:

It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV. “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: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.

Fact: Pregnancy from legitimate rape is very rare.

Fact: Lots of acts that are called “rape” these days aren’t actual rape.  “Legitimate rape” is a perfectly reasonable term to use, and it isn’t Akin’s fault that one has to say “legitimate rape” to distinguish actual forcible rape from drunken hookups: it is feminist’s fault.

Fact: Trauma and anxiety are known to suppress ovulation, and the bulk of a woman’s fertile time is prior to ovulation.  This of course is only pertinent to legitimate rape, not to the drunken hookups that feminists claim are rape.

Clearly Akin is simply establishing the fact that pregnancy from legitimate rape is very rare – a lot like “ticking time bomb and we’ve captured the terrorist who knows just where it is and how to defuse it” scenarios.

Fact: In the very rare case of a pregnancy from legitimate rape, it still isn’t justifiable to murder the child.

The way ostensible pro lifers have treated his off the cuff remarks as beyond the pale, and have committed calumny against him by pretending he said things he didn’t say, is absolutely vile and despicable in my view. They bring to mind a narcissistic teenager who spits on his own friends to try (vainly) to curry favor with the “in” crowd.

What this whole sordid affair shows is that pro lifers have allowed the entire discussion to be framed by feminists: they have conceded defeat before the conversation even starts.  Pro lifers have permitted leftist and PC idiots to frame a bunch of true statements as a “gaffe”.  Pro lifers have allowed the Left to frame as “incompetent” any statement from any pro lifer that is not prepared marketing copy, even though it is perfectly true.  Pro lifers have allowed the Left to frame true, qualified statements as “insensitive”.

Leftists don’t do this.  A leftist leader can commit sodomy in the oval office with an intern and the Left will still rally around him.

Why on earth would any self-respecting man with genuine leadership capacity want to lead such a bunch of yellow bellied ninnies, who will throw him under a bus at the slightest possibility that the cool kids might make fun of them for their beliefs?

John McG in the comments below says of Todd Akin, “We have a right to demand better.”

No you don’t.  Good leadership requires good followers.  You get the lack of leadership you deserve.

§ 25 Responses to How not to cultivate pro life leadership

  • johnmcg says:

    I understand that “drunken hookups vs. date rapes” is a conversation you would like to have, but many of us don’t, and the pro-life position does not rest on a position on that debate. I don’t think it is a gift to the unborn to burden their defenders with another unpopular stand.

    I don’t even think Akin was trying to have that conversation; I think he was trying to have it both ways on a difficult question. Yes, he would oppose abortion in the case of rape, but that hardly ever happens!

    I don’t think that’s courageous. It is pretending that there is little or no cost to the pro-life position, when there really is. If we follow this type of leadership, we will be led into an ambush when reality intrudes and it turns out there is a cost.

  • Zippy says:

    Yes, he would oppose abortion in the case of rape, but that hardly ever happens!

    That happens to be, you know, true and stuff. Not that that matters.

  • johnmcg says:

    “Hardly ever happens” as a statistical percentage of all abortions is true, yes.

    “Hardly ever happens” to the point where one seeking to restrict abortion need not confront it? No.

    To the women who are impregnated by rape, yes, it really doesn’t matter how hardly ever it happens.

  • johnmcg says:

    To put it another way, if before I got in a submarine with a captain, and someone asked him what his plan was for torpedoes, and his answer was to point to other defenses capable of warding those off, and I knew they were less than 100% effective, I’d think twice before climbing in that boat.

    Todd Akin is not my father. He is not my bishop. He is not my pastor. He was my Representative, but I don’t think that obliges me to support his positions any more than it obliges me to support the president’s positions.

    I’m have no reason to believe he’s not a good man who loves his family and is truly compassionate for both the born and the unborn.

    I’m just don’t have confidence in him as a leader. And I don’t owe him that just because he’s on my side on an issue as important as abortion.

  • Zippy says:

    You are grasping at straws now. This justifies burning a staunchly pro-life Senator – a Black Swan actual serving Senator in modern America on the national stage who actually does not support policies of murdering the innocent and holds the line on “three exceptions” – as a heretic?

    Besides which, you aren’t even addressing the point of the post, which is that pathetic “followers” who would knife their leaders in the back over something like this – something the pro-abortion side would never do – get exactly the non-leadership that they have chosen.

    Hell, even mercenaries would be better. At least they are motivated by money not to act the traitor.

    People who think like you don’t deserve to demand better, John. Akin is flawed, but he is already far better than you deserve. The problem isn’t primarily one of leadership; it is one of followership.

  • Zippy says:

    Perhaps some people just don’t like Akin for some other reason(s) and treat this whole hubbub as a pretext.

    In that case their dishonesty is part of their unworthiness as a follower.

  • Zippy says:

    And I don’t owe him that just because he’s on my side on an issue as important as abortion.

    Nobody owes you his dedication as a good leader either. You’ve got to earn it.

  • caethan says:

    You’ve convinced me; I live in St. Louis, and I’m ashamed that I badmouthed him in conversations when I should have stood up for him. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

  • tz says:

    This might be something for a Canon Lawyer or Theologian, but in the case of legitimate rape, would it be possible as part of the “rape kit” to kill the sperm and/or the egg (or perhaps add something to otherwise prevent fertilization) such that it would be guaranteed a zygote would NOT be killed?

    Contraception is objectively evil in most contexts, but is it in the case of legitimate rape?

    (If someone worries about a time delay, what if the woman is kidnapped and raped, and the police find out 9 months later and the newborn is in a crib next to the freed captive – is it permissible to kill the child then?).

    I think rape used to be a capital crime. Although I have severe misgivings about the death penalty, I would rather the guilty rapist die than the innocent baby.

    If a human being is created out of the rape, it is as much the victim’s child as the rapist’s. The two acts – killing her own child, and killing the rapist’s child are inseparable.

  • Zippy says:

    tz:
    I gave my own view on the question of contraception as self defense during rape here.

  • johnmcg says:

    I will admit that I didn’t particularly care for Rep. Akin before or after this incident. His candidacy seemed mostly to consist of shouting “ObamaCare” at every opportunity, and then after this incident, claiming victim status that he was taking on the establishment. He was an ardent supporter of every excess of the Bush Administration’s warmaking. I would like to think this did not color my reaction to his comments, but I’ll lay my own cards on the table.

    I would not categorize my own behavior as knifing him in the back. I would say it is delivering a vote of “no confidence,” which I maintain is within my rights to do, despite my apparent guilt of every verbal sin in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Many delivered far worse, worse than he perhaps deserved, but that doesn’t make him a good leader.

    Perhaps, I’m not worthy of a good leader, but I hope we can agree that the unborn are.


    By bringing in the “legitimate rape” comments, Akin demonstrated he believed on of the following:

    1. Pregnancy from rape is impossible. This would reveal scientific ignorance, and, in my view, be disqualifying.

    2. Pregnancy from rape is too rare to require being addressed specifically.

    I think we as pro-lifers should be wary of grounding our positions on statistical rarity. It is true that pregnancies as the result of rape are statistically rare. It is also true that it is rare that someone will recover from a “vegetative” state. Many of the children facing abortion would face life prospects that make “good outcomes” statistically unlikely. These are not the most relevant criteria.

    Whether the percentage of abortions that were the result of rape was 0.01%, 1%, or 100%, our position would not change.

    I think the pro-life position is a bottom-up rather than a top-down perspective. Demonstrating that an event is rare does not discharge us from a duty to address it.

    As I hope is clear, by “address” I don’t mean that we go ahead and allow abortion in the case of rape, but to be honest that we are favoring a policy that has some cost.

  • Zippy says:

    John:
    By bringing in the “legitimate rape” comments, Akin demonstrated he believed one of the following:

    1. Pregnancy from rape is impossible. This would reveal scientific ignorance, and, in my view, be disqualifying.

    2. Pregnancy from rape is too rare to require being addressed specifically.

    No, he didn’t. You are making stuff up and attributing it to him … AGAIN.

    Why would he contend that it is too rare to require being addressed and then specifically address it in the same comments?

    You should just finish the train you’ve gotten on: you don’t like Akin and (you think, incorrectly) that these comments of his gives you a stick to beat him with.

    I think that is just flat out dishonest. If you object to him as a leader for other reasons, fine. But you have no leg to stand on here. Perhaps your behaviour is similar to all the other pro lifers who piled onto Akin about these comments specifically: read into his comments things he didn’t say and publicly commit calumny against the man because there are other things that you think disqualify him. If so, they are all behaving dishonestly and should recant.

    What he did here is no different from what you yourself did probably hundreds of times with respect to torture: observe that the case the consequentialists are trying to beat you with is rare to nonexistent.

    Whatever may be the case for you personally, you’ve probably described the lay of the land amongst pro-life Akin detractors:

    1) Lilly-livered ninnies who would have supported him otherwise but who were embarrassed by his (true) remarks. They couldn’t stand how this made them look to the cool kids, so they stabbed him in the back.

    2) Liars who commit calumny by pretending Akin said things he didn’t say because they don’t like him for other reasons.

    Neither one of those is a good recipe for developing good pro life leadership.

  • Zippy says:

    There is probably a third category too:

    3) People who really have no clue and haven’t actually made up their own mind based on doing actual due diligence, but are willing to repeat lies about Akin that the cool kids are telling.

  • johnmcg says:

    What you are writing about me is worse than anything I have written about Rep. Akin. I hope you will at some point recognize this and apologize.

    I will concede that Rep. Akin did go on to articulate a general defense of life that I wish he would have started with.

    I still think the legitimate rape comment was at best a non sequitur. I don’t see any reason for mentioning it other than to imply that the whole rape-exception thing a non-issue. Perhaps I shouldn’t have speculated, but I don’t think it’s a point in Rep. Akin’s favor that he began his answer with a statement whose relevance to the question is not obvious.

    In my judgement, pro-life leadership is about more than checking the right boxes; it includes the ability to persuade people who are on the fence or the other side. To being a compelling face of the movement.

    As a PSR teacher, I must teach orthodox, sound doctrine. But I must also model Christ-like behavior for the students. If I don’t present myself as someone worth listening to, it doesn’t matter what I say. If the face of Church teaching for my students is someone unhappy, or someone who doesn’t let the teaching impact my life, I’ve failed.

    In my view, Rep. Akin’s answer to the question is a manifestation of this fault — he is a remarkably un-compelling advocate for the unborn. There’s a reason Claire McCaskill ran ads during the primary to try to get him as an opponent.

    I think that if Rep. Akin were a more generally effective politician whose faults were limited to this answer, he might have survived it.

    Saying I must choose between Rep. Akin and weak-kneed leadership is a false choice. I think in some ways, Paul Ryan modeled a robust no-compromises leadership on abortion. Though she proved herself unqualified in other domains, I think Sarah Palin modeled effective pro-life leadership. I think Rick Santorum was able to mount a primary campaign making strong pro-life stands.

    None of these people are perfect, and I have my disagreements with them on other issues. And I agree that anyone who prominently espouses an uncompromised pro-life positions will face unfair attacks that the rest of us will be called to defend them from.

    My judgement is that for Rep, Akin, the minusses outweighed the plusses.

  • Zippy says:

    John:
    What you are writing about me is worse than anything I have written about Rep. Akin. I hope you will at some point recognize this and apologize.

    You have continuously been publicly falsely attributing things to Akin since the subject came up. I’m not going to pretend you haven’t been. I’ve considered blocking your comments so at least I am no longer helping you harm yourself in this way; but that comes with its own problems.

  • johnmcg says:

    Probably best to cool off for now, but I would invite you to compare my speculation for Rep. Akin’s motives in beginning his answer the way he did, with your speculations about my motives for objecting.

    I repeat my concession that some of my comments failed to account for Rep. Akin’s second sentence about punishing the rapist rather than killing the child.

    In reality, I don’t think we’re that far apart in our assessment of Rep. Akin’s answer — that they supported pro-life principles, but in a poorly considered way, and the main difference is the degree to which we think they were unwise.

    I think our main difference is whether we think that ought to be disqualifying for him as a Senate candidate and leader of the pro-life movement. My conclusion that it is may be influenced my assessment of his time as my representative for the past 10 years, which may be a bias.

  • Zippy says:

    John:
    I would invite you to compare my speculation for Rep. Akin’s motives in beginning his answer the way he did, with your speculations about my motives for objecting.

    Why change the subject?

    Show me one place where I claim that you said something you didn’t. I’ve shown you bunches of places where you have claimed that Akin said something he didn’t.

    I think our main difference is …

    One of our main differences is that I am not easily sidetracked. My post makes a very specific point: that the way many or most of Akin’s pro-life critics have responded to this specific statement by this particular man has been breathtakingly self-destructive in addition to morally wrong.

  • Kristor says:

    The truth is always a bit of a gaffe, no? An affront? An insult, even?

    “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

  • James Kabala says:

    The figure reported in the wake of this controversy is that there are 32,000 rape-related pregnancies each year. If that number is accurate (can we trust the MSM?), then whether that number is “rare” is obviously a matter of opinion. Five a year is few; a million a year is many; 32,000 is somewhere in between.

    Akin shot himself in the foot by raising the commonness of the act at all. He may not have meant it that way, but the unstated implication of “It’s rare; don’t worry about it” is “If it were common, my views might change.” The correct answer is that the commonness or rareness does not matter; it is murder regardless of the circumstances. He gets around to saying that finally, but only after he himself foolishly raised a red herring.

  • Zippy says:

    James Kabala:
    If that number is accurate (can we trust the MSM?) …

    I haven’t seen a report on the number of pregnancies from actual forcible rape which separates it out from drunken hookups and the like. I expect that we can “trust” the number in much the same way we can “trust” numbers about how many incidents of “enhanced interrogation” led to “actionable intelligence”, and no further. The discourse is obviously question begging.

    the unstated implication of “It’s rare; don’t worry about it” is “If it were common, my views might change.”

    I think that is just flat false, especially since he “worried” about it in the very next words out of his mouth. All these “unstated implications” are just calumnies against Akin, since he deals with them immediately in what I quoted.

    More generally, making the case that the amount of “life saving actionable intelligence” acquired by “enhanced interrogation” is tiny to nonexistent is not the same thing as conceding that torture would be hunky dory if it actually did produce lots of life-saving intelligence. Not. At. All.

    When someone on the anti-torture side sees a fellow anti-torture advocate making the case that torture doesn’t work, how should he respond? I think it is perfectly reasonable to respond by emphasizing that, although it is true that torture is particularly ineffectual at achieving what its proponents say they are trying to achieve, even if it were true that torture often results in life saving intelligence that wouldn’t justify it.

    However, if some group reacted the way ostensible pro-lifers reacted to Akin’s remarks I’d suspect rather strongly that they weren’t really against torture after all.

  • James Kabala says:

    Fair enough; the “torture doesn’t work” and the “rape from pregnancy is rare” arguments are rather similar, and if one is OK the other (if it is true) should be as well. Can you point me to some scientific literature that confirms that Akin’s claim was correct? There are pro-life scientists, so surely someone has done the research.

    For what it’s worth, sources also claim that there are 13,000 abortions of rape-caused pregnancies each year – if both numbers are correct, then a majority (19,000) of women pregnant from rape do not abort – that is the statistic we should be highlighting. Pro-choicers claim that to abort a rape pregnancy is obviously OK, yet most of those actually in the situation do the right thing.

  • johnmcg says:

    I would say one key difference is that the ticking time bomb is a hypothetical situation that has not happened, whereas there are flesh and blood human beings who were conceived by forcible rape. Crossing from n=0 to n>=1 is a real threshold which I think has implications for how we address things.

    This doesn’t mean the attention paid to these cases is proportionate to their frequency, or that it’s fair that uncompromised pro-life politicians are called to address their rare hard cases so much more often than pro-choice candidates are called to address their non-so-rare hard cases like late term and sex selective abortions. My point here is that we need leaders with the skill to point this out effectively, and my judgement is that Rep. Akin failed to do this.

    I have a post at my place addressing the question of whether expressing our uncharitable interpretations of Rep. Akin’s answers are calumny.

    tl;dr: If it is, we may as well shut down blogs, comments and all political discussions. The result won’t be greater truth, but people holding on to unchecked assumptions.

  • Zippy says:

    James Kabala:
    I’ve seen this, for example, but I’ve not done due diligence on it and claims like it.

  • Zippy says:

    John:
    I haven’t read your post, but there is a significant difference between what you are calling an “uncharitable interpretation” and claiming that someone said X when in fact he expressly said the opposite of X.

  • […] have told lies about what he actually said.  I’ve said my piece about that here, here, here, and here; but one thing I haven’t done is explicitly give examples of the […]

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