Russell Shorto

Akin Aped in Europe

Lots of people in conservative America stand behind Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, as has been reported. But now he is being seconded by some politicians in the most liberal country on the planet. Here in the Netherlands, Kees van der Staaij, head of the ultra-conservative Christian party, when asked to comment on Akin’s statement that “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” in the case of rape, told a TV interviewer much the same thing: “Women seldom get pregnant as a result of rape and that is a fact.”

Reaction in the Netherlands–which is in the midst of a political campaign–was swift. There was lots of joking (“So Kees van der Staaij has kicked off the 1632 election,” said a tweeter), but also a refreshing bout of statistics. The Dutch reproductive health group Rutgers WPF published information from a government-financed study showing that 7% of women who are raped become pregnant. Applying that figure to information from the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics would mean that last year 111 Dutch women would have become pregnant as a result of rape. Of all Dutch women currently between the ages of 15 and 70, 1% have become pregnant due to rape.

2 Replies to “Akin Aped in Europe”

  1. keri says:

    I have enjoyed reading your blog, but must take issue with your “lots of people in conservative America,” agree with Rep. Akin’s comments. I have not heard one conservative politician or pundit have anything but scorn for Rep. Aitkin’s comments. (Newt Gingrich, notwithstanding.) You have written a complete untruth. Give one example of one prominent Conservative that agreed with that asinine opinion. Also, you then quote your own politician, whom was saying something completely different. Actually, what Rep. Akins said was far worse, then one of your politicians pointing out what he believed to be a statistical fact? Your owe conservative Americans like myself an apology

    1. russell says:

      Hi Keri. Thanks for your comment. I should have said “lots of people in conservative American agree with Akin (and lots do not)”… Because, indeed, while many, like you, find his comments ridiculous, more than a million people voted for him on Nov 6, and there were lots of stories like this one in which voters said they agree with him:

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About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar