Tag Archive: Claire McCaskill

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NEW YORK – Around the world, people’s understanding of why rape happens usually takes one of two forms. Either it is like lightning, striking some unlucky woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time (an isolated, mysterious event, caused by some individual man’s sudden psychopathology), or it is “explained” by some seductive transgression by the victim (the wrong dress, a misplaced smile).

This illustration is by Barrie Maguire and comes from <a href="http://www.newsart.com">NewsArt.com</a>, and is the property of the NewsArt organization and of its artist. Reproducing this image is a violation of copyright law.
Illustration by Barrie Maguire

But the idea of a “rape culture” – a concept formulated by feminists in the 1970’s as they developed the study of sexual violence – has hardly made a dent in mainstream consciousness. The notion that there are systems, institutions, and attitudes that are more likely to encourage rape and protect rapists is still marginal to most people, if they have encountered it at all.

That is a shame, because there have been numerous recent illustrations of the tragic implications of rape culture. Reports of widespread sexual violence in India, South Africa, and recently Brazil have finally triggered a long-overdue, more systemic examination of how those societies may be fostering rape, not as a distant possibility in women’s lives, but as an ever-present, life-altering, daily source of terror.

The latest “rape culture” to be exposed – in recent documentaries, lawsuits, and legislative hearings – is embedded within the United States military. As The Guardian reported in 2011, women soldiers in Iraq faced a higher likelihood of being sexually assaulted by a colleague than they did of dying by enemy fire.

So pervasive is the sexual violence aimed at American women soldiers that a group of veterans sued the Pentagon, hoping to spur change. Twenty-five women and three men claimed that they had endured sexual assaults while serving, and lay the blame at the feet of former US Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates. The reason, the lawsuit claims, is that these men oversaw an institutional culture that punished those who reported the assaults, while refusing to punish the attackers.

When Maricella Guzman reported a sexual assault in her first month of service in the Navy, instead of being “taken seriously,” she says, “I was forced to do sit-ups.” Women soldiers who had served in Afghanistan came forward to speak with the filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, whose Oscar-nominated film The Invisible War exposed the scale of the problem. The fear of rape at US-held battlefields led directly to endemic illnesses caused by dehydration: women at the front, serving in 110-degree heat (43 degrees Celsius), did everything possible to avoid drinking, because rape was so common in the latrines.

The tales of colleagues, and even superiors, assaulting soldiers whose lives they are supposed to protect – stories that reveal the license that the attackers must have felt they had – are harrowing enough. What becomes clear from story after story in The Invisible War is a consistent – indeed, nearly identical – narrative of concealment, cover-up, and punishment of alleged victims, for whom justice was almost impossible to obtain through institutional channels.

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James Taranto has decided to inject himself into the military rape issue; problem is, his ideas are all of the antiquated 'blame the victim' variety. Image @PSAWomenPolitics

James Taranto has decided to inject himself into the military rape issue; problem is, his ideas are all of the antiquated ‘blame the victim’ variety. Image @PSAWomenPolitics

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The Wall Street Journal

Gen. Helms and the Senator’s ‘Hold’

An Air Force commander exercised her discretion in a sexual-assault case. Now her career is being blocked by Sen. Claire McCaskill. Why?


Lt. Gen. Susan Helms is a pioneering woman who finds her career stalled because of a war on men—a political campaign against sexual assault in the military that shows signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality.

Gen. Helms is a 1980 graduate of the Air Force Academy who became an astronaut in 1990. She was a crewman on four space-shuttle missions and a passenger on two, traveling to the International Space Station and back 5½ months later. Two days after arriving at the station in 2001, she, along with fellow astronaut Jim Voss, conducted history’s longest spacewalk—8 hours, 56 minutes—to work on a docking device.

In March, President Obama nominated Gen. Helms to serve as vice commander of the Air Force Space Command. But Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who sits on the Armed Services Committee, has placed a “permanent hold” on the nomination.


Associated Press
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

At issue is the general’s decision in February 2012 to grant clemency to an officer under her command. Capt. Matthew Herrera had been convicted by a court-martial of aggravated sexual assault. Ms. McCaskill said earlier this month that the clemency decision “sent a damaging message to survivors of sexual assault who are seeking justice in the military justice system.”


Associated Press
Lt. Gen. Susan Helms

To describe the accuser in the Herrera case as a “survivor” is more than a little histrionic. The trial was a he-said/she-said dispute between Capt. Herrera and a female second lieutenant about a drunken October 2009 sexual advance in the back seat of a moving car. The accuser testified that she fell asleep, then awoke to find her pants undone and Capt. Herrera touching her genitals. He testified that she was awake, undid her own pants, and responded to his touching by resting her head on his shoulder.

Two other officers were present—the designated driver and a front-seat passenger, both lieutenants—but neither noticed the hanky-panky. Thus on the central questions of initiation and consent, it was her word against his.

On several other disputed points, however, the driver, Lt. Michelle Dickinson, corroborated Capt. Herrera’s testimony and contradicted his accuser’s.

Capt. Herrera testified that he and the accuser had flirted earlier in the evening; she denied it. Lt. Dickinson agreed with him. The accuser testified that she had told Lt. Dickinson before getting into the car that she found Capt. Herrera “kind of creepy” and didn’t want to share the back seat with him; Lt. Dickinson testified that she had said no such thing. And the accuser denied ever resting her head on Capt. Herrera’s shoulder (although she acknowledged putting it in his lap). Lt. Dickinson testified that at one point during the trip, she looked back and saw the accuser asleep with her head on Capt. Herrera’s shoulder.


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NRSC Spent Big On Todd Akin Race After Claiming To Abandon Him


Todd Akin

The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent $760,000 to the Missouri Republican Party in the first days of November, which was used to give the embattled Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) a last-minute campaign boost, Politico reports.

Just two months prior to making that move, the NRSC had publicly promised to abandon Akin, who said in August that “legitimate rape” does not lead to pregnancy.

“It is not only wrong that the NRSC would provide funds to support a dangerous extremist like Todd Akin, it was underhanded and dishonest that they would purposely mislead the public about their actions,” Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told The Huffington Post Friday.

The Huffington Post reported on Oct. 31 that over $700,000 had been funneled into Akin’s campaign through Missouri’s Republican party, but the NRSC refused to say whether or not they had spent the money. Most of the national GOP establishment, including super PACs like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, had cut Akin off after trying and failing to oust him from his Senate race.

The last minute TV ad buy for Akin, of course, made little difference, as the candidate lost by a 15-point margin to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Election Day Nov. 6.

The NRSC declined to comment.

This story has been updated to reflect the NRSC’s response.


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Who Won the War on Women?

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If you got caught up in the “war on women” narrative this election cycle, you might have missed the fact that that a conspicuous number of women were running for the Senate today. There were women candidates in fifteen of the thirty-three Senate races. In three states—California, Hawaii, and New York—both the Republican and the Democrat are women. And a couple of those women check other demographic boxes as well. In Wisconsin, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, won a tight race against former governor Tommy Thompson. She will be the first openly gay member of the Senate. In six of the contests where women are running, they’re the incumbents, and likely to be reëlected. Among the remaining nine states, there’s Hawaii—which will definitely send a woman to the Senate—Wisconsin; Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown tonight; Nebraska, where Republican Deb Fischer seemed to be beating former governor Bob Kerrey; Nevada, where Republican Dean Heller was trying to defend his seat from Shelley Berkley; and North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rick Berg were running neck and neck. Linda McMahon, a Republican, was defeated in Connecticut.

Meanwhile, Richard Mourdock, the Republican Senate candidate in Indiana who said that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, it is something that God intended,” was defeated, while Todd Akin, the Republican from Missouri who adopted the concept of “legitimate” rape, was losing to Claire McCaskill, who had been a notably weak candidate. (She had been dogged by a scandal involving her private plane and unpaid property taxes.)

It now appears that the number of women in the Senate could go from seventeen to twenty-three. If it hadn’t been for those antediluvian attacks on contraception, we’d be calling this the Year of the Woman. If there was a war on women this year, it looks like the women are winning.

Photograph by Josh Reynolds/AP.

Senate to have most women ever. Not enough, but most ever.

by Laura ClawsonFollow for Daily Kos

Elizabeth Warren talks to supporter

attribution: Elizabeth Warren for Senate

We didn’t just Upgrade the Senate this cycle, we put a record number of women in it. According to EMILY’s List late Tuesday night:

With the victories of Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Deb Fischer (R-NE), we’ve reached an historic number of women serving in the Senate. Even with the retirements of Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), at least 18 women—a record high—will serve in the Senate starting in 2013.Every Democratic woman incumbent Senator was re-elected, and results are still out for challengers Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

In fact, while Mazie Hirono is going to win this one, her opponent is also a woman, so either way, count Hawaii in the record number of women senators. And some women, like Connecticut Republican and terrible human being Linda McMahon, we’re not sorry to see lose.The fact that 18 women out of 100 senators would be a record high is pathetic. But it’s progress.

7:34 AM PT (kos): While not officially called, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota had a 1-point lead with 100 percent of the vote counted, or a raw 3,000 votes. She’s in the Senate. Hirono in Hawaii won by 25 points or so. It wasn’t even close.

The only downer was Berkley in Nevada, undone by her (bogus) ethical problems and a painfully close 1.2-point loss. That’s 19 women if my math is correct.


Rape comments deal fatal Senate blow to Republicans

Heidi Przybyla and Kathleen Hunter

Two Republican candidates who made controversial comments about rape during the campaign have been defeated, almost certainly helping the Democrats to retain their majority in the Senate.

The Democrats are almost assured of retaining the majority after Republicans lost seats in Indiana, Massachusetts and Maine.

In Missouri the incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill defeated Republican Todd Akin to win a second Senate term.

Waiting in vain ... a volunteer carries a sign into Richard Mourdock's planned victory rally in Indianapolis.Waiting in vain … a volunteer carries a sign into Richard Mourdock’s planned victory rally in Indianapolis. Photo: Reuters

The race was turned upside down on August 19 when Mr Akin said in a television interview that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy. The remark prompted party officials, including the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to urge the six-term congressman to leave the race. It was a political gift to Ms McCaskill, 59, who had been trailing Mr Akin in polls.


The Senate contest in Missouri, a Republican-leaning state where Barack Obama has low approval ratings, had been viewed as one of the Republicans’ best opportunities to capture one of four seats they need to win a Senate majority.

In Indiana, the Democrat Joe Donnelly defeated Richard Mourdock, who in May defeated the six-term Republican incumbent Richard Lugar in a primary vote.

Supporters of President 
Barack Obama cheer as Obama wins their state, at a victory party in Manchester, 
New Hampshire. Click for more photos

US Presidential Election Day

Supporters of President Barack Obama cheer as Obama wins their state, at a victory party in Manchester, New Hampshire. Photo: The New York Times

Less than two weeks before election day, Mr Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer, imperiled his attempt to replace Mr Lugar in the Senate by referring to pregnancies resulting from rape as “something God intended to happen”.

The Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown was beaten by the Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, television networks reported.

In Maine, the independent Angus King beat a Republican and a Democrat for the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, whose decision in February to retire was an early blow to Republicans’ hopes of gaining Senate control. Mr King is expected to caucus with Democrats.

Campaign clanger ... Todd Akin votes in Wildwood, Missouri.Campaign clanger … Todd Akin votes in Wildwood, Missouri. Photo: AFP

Democrats control the Senate 53-47. Republicans needed to pick up four net seats to gain a majority.

Democratic candidates in Connecticut, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania held on to seats the party now controls that were considered competitive.

The Democrat Chris Murphy defeated Linda McMahon, the former head of World Wrestling Entertainment, for the Senate seat in Connecticut held by retiring Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Senator Sherrod Brown defeated Republican challenger Josh Mandel in Ohio, a presidential battleground state.

In Florida, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida won a third term, defeating Republican Representative Connie Mack IV.

Democratic Senator Bob Casey defeated Republican Tom Smith in Pennsylvania.

The Senate electoral landscape was supposed to favor Republicans, who were defending 10 seats compared with 23 Democratic seats on the ballot this year in the 100-seat chamber. The odds of a Republican majority dropped from 70 per cent in February to just below 40 per cent, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington.

To gain the majority, Republicans needed to hold all five of their competitive seats, including in Indiana and Massachusetts, and pick up four currently held by Democrats.

Continued gridlock would be probable next year in a Congress with an unchanged balance of power, said Jennifer Duffy, Senate analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. Both parties will “find things in this election to encourage them to continue to behave as they’ve behaved the last two to four years”, she said.

Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock won't be ascending to the U.S. Senate. (photo: Scott Olson/Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)
Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock won’t be ascending to the U.S. Senate. (photo: Scott Olson/Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)


Rape Comments Cost Akin and Mourdock Senate Seats

Karen McVeigh, Guardian UK



odd Akin and Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidates who made off-the-cuff remarks about rape and abortion, have both been defeated, destroying their party’s hopes of taking control of the Senate.

Akin, who lost to incumbent Claire McCaskill in Missouri, was abandoned by his party after he made his notorious “legitimate rape” comments in August. The six-term congressman from suburban St Louis and a staunch pro-lifer, told a television interviewer who asked about his abortion stance: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Until that point, McCaskill was considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent senators because of her links to Barack Obama in a state that has leaned heavily to the right in recent national elections.

Immediately after the result was called on Tuesday night, Jason Whitman, the GOP chairman, expressed his frustration at Akin in a tweet, which read: I just want to say a quick thank you to @ToddAkin for helping us lose the senate”

Akin’s remarks, at odds with basic biology as well as introducing the notion that rape was a crime on a sliding scale, caused widespread offence among Republicans and Democrats alike.

In Indiana, Mourdock, a Tea Party favourite who beat veteran incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, was initially tipped to win against Joe Donnelly, but he too lost ground after overstepping the line when talking about abortion and rape. He said that pregnancy resulting from rape is “something that God intended to happen.”

The Republican party, who believed it would be impossible for Akin to beat McCaskill after the controversy, withdrew campaign funding and leaders, including Mitt Romney and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell called on him to step down in time for the party to name a replacement. Missouri has long been considered to be an important seat for Republicans if they are to win the Senate.

But Akin refused and, with a band of mostly Christian conservative supporters, portrayed himself as an anti-establishment figure.

When the national Republican senatorial committee and Crossroads for America, an influential Super Pac, withdrew funding, Akin began an online campaign for donations and found support from prominent Republicans, including former presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

Akin’s campaign concentrated on McCaskill’s close ties with Obama, her support of the healthcare law and the 2009 fiscal stimulus and her family’s links to federal money.

McCaskill featured video clips of Akin expressing opposition to the federal minimum wage and to the federal government’s role in issuing student loans, which he had cited as an example of how the government suffers from “the equivalent of stage three cancer of socialism.”

In Indiana, the incumbent, Richard Lugar, had 87% of the vote when he won his sixth term in 2006, but he lost the seat he had held for almost four decades in a primary challenge earlier this year to Mourdock, the state treasurer and a Tea Party favourite.

Mourdock began the contest with momentum from his win over Lugar, but he slipped in the polls after he said he did not support a woman’s right to abortion in the case of rape. He was also damaged by Lugar’s refusal to involve himself in the campaign.

“I believe that life begins at conception,” Mourdock said, in a televised debate with Donnelly in October. “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I just struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God – that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

His comments, attracted widespread criticism from both sides, including President Barack Obama and prominent Republicans. Mitt Romney distanced himself from Mourdock’s comments but did not withdraw his endorsement of him.

Mourdock stood by his comments, apologising only for people misinterpreting them. But the most recent polls this week and last showed his opponent gaining ground.

Donnelly, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, also holds conservative views on abortion. He supports legal abortion only in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.


Democrats Deliver String of Stinging Defeats in Senate

Evan McGlinn for The New York Times

Elizabeth Warren’s victory in Massachusetts was one in a string of Republican setbacks.



Democrats snatched Republican Senate seats in Indiana and Massachusetts on Tuesday, averted what once were considered likely defeats in Missouri, North Dakota and Montana, and expanded their control of the Senate, handing Republicans a string of stinging defeats for the second campaign season in a row.

Representative Joe Donnelly, Democrat of Indiana, celebrated in Indianapolis with his wife, Jill, after winning a Senate seat.

With the concession of Representative Rick Berg, Republican of North Dakota, to Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, in the last outstanding Senate race, Democrats secured 55 seats, assuming independent former Gov. Angus King of Maine sides with them next year. That is a two-seat gain from the current Senate balance of power, a remarkable outcome for a Senate fight that was once expected to end with a Republican majority.

Senate leaders declared that their strong showing must be a signal to Republicans to come to the table to deal with the nation’s intractable problems, including the “fiscal cliff” facing Congress in January.

“Now that the election is over, it’s time to put politics aside and work together to find solutions,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader. “The strategy of obstruction, gridlock and delay was soundly rejected by the American people. Now they are looking to us for solutions.”

In Indiana, Representative Joe Donnelly did what had seemed impossible by taking a Senate seat for the Democrats in a heavily Republican state, just weeks after his opponent, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, said conception by rape was God’s will.

In Wisconsin, Representative Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay candidate to secure a Senate seat with her defeat of former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a Democrat once considered the Senate’s most endangered incumbent, beat Representative Todd Akin, who seemingly sank his campaign when he said women who are victims of “legitimate rape” would not get pregnant.

In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor, swept from power Senator Scott P. Brown, a Republican whose surprise victory in January 2010 heralded the coming of the Tea Party wave. In Virginia, former Gov. Tim Kaine triumphed over another former governor, George Allen.

Democrats also scored a narrow victory in Montana, as Senator Jon Tester — one of the party’s most endangered incumbents — beat Representative Denny Rehberg, in what was believed to be the most expensive race in the state’s history.

Those Democratic triumphs followed quick wins in Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all states where Republicans had harbored ambitions of victory that would propel them to a Senate majority for the first time since 2006.

Republicans lost another state when former Gov. Angus King Jr. of Maine, an independent, won his race to succeed Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a moderate who is retiring. Mr. King has yet to say which party he will caucus with next year, but he had warned Republicans and Democrats that his treatment during the campaign would bear on that decision. National Republicans and their “super PAC” allies responded by pummeling him with negative advertisements that did little to shake his lead.

“We said we’d defend all of our seats and would put half of their seats in play,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who took that job last year when others had refused it.

“No one believed me,” she said, “but we did just that.”

The Senate campaigns of 2012 will be remembered for the sudden salience of rape as a destructive political subject and a Democratic surge in a year once expected to be the party’s Waterloo. Two years after Tea Party-backed candidates in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada fumbled away Republican chances at Senate control, a new crop of conservatives appeared to do the same thing. That will surely raise new questions about the failure of Washington Republicans to control a right flank in their grass roots.

“They’re going to have to decide whether they want to be in the majority or the minority,” Senator Snowe said. “It simply doesn’t make sense if Republicans decide they’re going to drive an ideological agenda as opposed to a practical agenda that is aligned with the principles of our roots.”

Representative Christopher S. Murphy fended off the deep-pocketed campaign of the former wrestling executive Linda McMahon to win a Senate seat in Connecticut, and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida easily defeated his Republican challenger, Representative Connie Mack.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio held off Josh Mandel, the Republican state treasurer, weathering an onslaught of negative advertising from outside groups to keep a seat for Democrats in a presidential battleground that Republicans were counting on.

In New York, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, cruised to re-election. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, was also easily re-elected.

Politics, Legislation and Economy News

Politics / Legislation  :   Rule Of Law – Women’s Rights –  Reproductive Rights

 New Todd Akin Videos Reveal His  Dystopian Nightmare Vision of America



Todd Akin is scared.
Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

After becoming a national scandal with his claims that “legitimate rape” cannot result in pregnancy, Rep. Todd Akin has been slowly regaining lost ground in the contest against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill for a Missouri Senate seat. Akin’s strategy has been to characterize the remark as a mere misspeaking that is not indicative of his larger character, and the strategy must be working, because at least one poll has him up by one percentage point.

But the left-wing PAC American Bridge 21st Century pointed me toward some C-SPAN videos that make it very difficult to take the “legitimate rape” thing as an anomaly.

One revealing glimpse into the Akin worldview: May 24, 2005, Akin’s speech denouncing stem cell research on the House floor. It’s a marvel of right-wing paranoia in which he fantasizes about what will happen if stem cell research continues—if it reaches what he calls “step three”—based on a story about harvesting organs from real humans that his daughter wrote:

My own daughter wrote a little story—I will read it—about step three. “I live with 40 others in a compound, supervised by cool, efficient orderlies. Instead of playing, I stood pondering a troubling dream from the night before. It was of a loving father, giving his child a name. I’ve always been just 5-25-61-B.”

Looks like someone’s been reading Never Let Me Go.

Here’s a clip of the speech, in which he also drops this gem of a quote characterizing women as climate control and food distribution systems: “Now an embryo may seem like some scientific or laboratory term, but in fact the embryo contains the unique information that defines a person. All you add is food and climate control, and some time, and the embryo becomes you or me.”

Daily Kos did some minor reporting on Akin’s weird ideas about abortion providers, but watching the full speech Akin gave on Jan. 22, 2008, reveals that his statement, “And yet we have terrorists in our own culture called abortionists,” is just a minor part of an elaborate fantasy about who abortion providers are, what they do, and why they do it.

Who wants to be at the very bottom of the food chain of the medical profession? And what sort of places do these bottom-of-the-food-chain doctors work in? Places that are really a pit. You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other law-breaking: not following good sanitary procedure, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, misuse of anesthetics so that people die or almost die. All of these things are common practice, and all of that information is available for America.

It is clearly lost on Akin that the image he’s invoking—of dirty clinics that operate illegally and misuse pain medication—is the reality he’s trying to create. He wants to ban abortion, which is a surefire way to get a whole bunch of  illegal, underground clinics that aren’t held accountable to standard medical practice. If you want clean, safe abortion, you need it to be legal.


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