Earlier this week, ThinkProgress noted that a leading anti-abortion group plans to offer a training program to teach Republican candidates and lawmakers how to avoid toxic comments about rape. Yet, at a retreat this week for House Republicans in Williamsburg, Virginia, the GOP caucus received much more concise advice on how not to sound like Todd Akin: if you’re about to talk about rape, don’t:
[GOP Pollster] Kellyanne Conway dispensed the stern advice as part of a polling presentation she made alongside fellow GOP pollsters David Winston — an adviser to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — and Dave Sackett. The comment was described by several sources in the room.
Conway said rape is a “four-letter word,” and Republicans simply need to stop talking about it in their races for office.
Simply ignoring the existence of rape is probably a smarter political strategy than describing it as “legitimate” or claiming that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from God,” but an even better strategy would be to stop treating some rape victims as less worthy than others.
It is bad when Todd Akin attaches unacceptable adjectives to the word “rape,” but it is far worse when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) partners with Akin to strip rape victims of Medicaid funds unless they are victims of “forcible rape.” Similarly, it is bad when Rep. Phil Gingrey tries to defend Akin’s reprehensible statement, but far worse when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) blocks the Violence Against Women Act’s reauthorization because he thinks it does too much to protect Native American women from being raped. The way for Republicans to prove they can be trusted to set national policy regarding violence against women is not to pretend rape does not exist, it is to take seriously their obligation not to exacerbate the trauma felt by rape survivors and support legislation that will prevent rape in the future.