Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Don't Let Myths Shape Public Policy about Women's Reproductive Health

As most of you have heard by now, over the weekend Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri made deeply disturbing and misinformed comments about sexual assault and women’s reproductive health. He said that women who are “legitimately” raped do not get pregnant: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said.

This is, of course, misinformed and betrays a lack of basic knowledge about sexual assault and women’s physiology. The sad reality is that there are many myths about sexual assault that permeate our culture and, in turn, perpetuate violence. To respond to Akin by merely saying, “oh that’s ridiculous” ignores the fact that many people around us do believe these types of myths about rape.

An important response about these myths has come from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (ie, pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.”  

Yesterday, President Obama responded by saying “rape is rape,” and decried Akin’s comments. Obama said, “So what I think [Akin’s] comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.” 

It’s time to speak out when legislators and leaders are using these untruths to shape public policies.

·         First, let’s educate ourselves about common rape myths so we can stand up against rape culture. Our allies at Rape Victim Advocates in Chicago have gathered an excellent list of myths and facts to get started. 

·         Next, consider taking action to help pass the Violence Against Women Act, which offers protection to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

·         To learn more about CAASE’s work to hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable, visit our legal services page.