Kennedy, who the Anti-Defamation League has termed a “Christian supremacist,” repeatedly railed against legalized abortion, calling it the “American Holocaust” and suggesting that it would lead inevitably to genocide in the United States. But Kennedy’s discussions of rape and abortion in particular betray extraordinarily disturbing views about rape victims:
1. Kennedy believed that rape victims who chose abortion are “hysterical.” In “Abortion: Myths and Realities,” Kennedy labels victims of rape who chose unsafe abortions when safer procedures are illegal “hysterical,” saying “We are told by some of the radical feminists that the women will become hysterical, that they will abort themselves with coat hanger.” Abortion rates are, in fact, higher in nations where the procedure is criminalized, and men describing women whose choices they disapprove of as “hysterical” has a storied sexist history.
2. Kennedy suggests rape victims can be responsible for being raped. In “Life: An Inalienable Right,” Kennedy expresses concern that rape victims who chose to get an abortion are occasionally responsible for their own rape, saying that “Even if they want to say the woman had some part in it—which in most cases they probably don’t—surely the baby did nothing wrong, so the only innocent party is killed and the rapist often goes free.” He doesn’t elaborate on how this might be true, but another Kennedy sermon says “the immodest woman is contributing to the lust of other people” by wearing revealing clothing.
3. Kennedy held that the Bible should set our laws about rape and abortion. Kennedy is very explicit on this point, saying “In the Bible, the child of rape was allowed to live and the rapist was put to death. Today, we find that the penalties against rape have become more and more lenient, whereas the child is now the subject of capital punishment. Justice has been totally destroyed and perverted in that the guilty are practically allowed to go free and the innocent are killed.” This fits with Kennedy’s general view that we should “rebuild America based on the Bible.”
4. Kennedy thought husbands should determine if their wives can have abortions. Though not specifically addressing rape, Kennedy approvingly cited a Roman prohibition on abortion motivated by the husbands should have control over women’s reproductive choice, saying “That newly created life is as much the husband’s as it is the wife’s. Historically, it is interesting to note that when the Roman Empire did away with laws that allowed abortion, it was done not because of the woman or the harm that abortions were doing to women (and indeed they do vastly more harm than most people are aware of), but because the husband was being defrauded of his progeny.” Interestingly, Akin has worried that criminalizing marital rape provides women “a legal weapon to beat up on the husband.”
Given that Akin’s rhetoric and policy views bear clear marks of Kennedy’s influence, it’s perhaps no surprise that Akin co-sponsored (with Paul Ryan) a bill that could, by limiting federal funding of abortion to cases of “forcible rape,” make rape survivors give birth to their rapist’s child.