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Republicans can't seem to keep from diving into the nexus between rape and abortion during this "jobs, jobs, jobs" election. Aside from the obvious - that this is probably a bad political play for a party that has a big gap with women voters nationally - it's been quite common during this cycle. The latest such comment from a running GOPer comes from Richard Mourdock, the Tea Partier who primaried Indiana's Dick Lugar. Mourdock recently made comments that have people comparing him with Missouri's Todd Akin.
Todd Akin probably made the biggest such splash so far this year. Of course, his comments about a woman's body shutting down pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape" - a phrase which is troubling on its own, even out of context - were so biologically off base as to be laughable. And laugh we would have, were the gambit not so obvious: if a woman's body shuts down all pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape," then no woman who gets pregnant has actually been raped, at least not "legitimately." In other words, her claims to the contrary must be bogus.
But even if Mourdock's comment angles at the same policy proposal as Akin's, it is not the same. Here is what he said:
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
First of all, we should note that he is not making the horrifying and willfully ignorant statement about biology that Akin did. He is not saying rape cannot lead to pregnancy. On the contrary, what he is saying is that it can and does. He also correctly regards rape as a horrible. His comments do not offend because because they are scientifically ignorant or because they fail to put the proper weight on the act of rape. Rather, these are the honest expressions of an earnest theist.
Mourdock is essentially grappling with the problem of evil. For those of you a few years out from philosophy 101, it goes a little something like this: if we allow that god is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent as is claimed, how can evil exist in the world? It's a philosophical doozy not easily reconciled. Still, there have been myriad attempts. Some have argued that there is a divine plan beyond their comprehension. Some argue that evil is a test of faith.
Like many of his contemporaries, Mourdock appears to believe that life, such as it is, begins at the very moment of conception and that it is the spark of divinity regardless of where or how it flickers. This is the essential problem in the abortion debate. If someone truly believes that an immortal soul is brought into existence at the moment of conception, can we be that surprised when they object to terminating it, whatever the grounds? Regardless of someone having been raped, that would still be murder, would it not? Even in situations where the life of the mother is potentially threatened by continuing the pregnancy, you're looking down the barrel of having to choose one soul over the other. And a soul is a soul is a soul.
Core beliefs like this, especially when held by people who hold their faith - essentially committing to hold the belief regardless of whatever comes - as the highest human virtue, cannot and will not be reasoned with. In no way will you or should you be able to debate them away from their position, unless that debate should result in nothing short of a dissolution of that faith. In that sense, Mourdock is nothing but a common, earnest theist, no more a monster than millions of his fellow Americans.