Legitimate birth

Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri reminds me of certain natural childbirth advocates.

When asked whether he opposes abortion in cases of rape, Akin declared:

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

Akin ought to win an award for cramming the largest amount of ignorance into the fewest possible words.

I don’t know where he got the idea that women can turn off ovulation or prevent conception or prevent implantation or a fertilized egg, but I do know where he got the idea that not all rapes are “legitimate.” It comes from an old line of legal “reasoning” that claims that most women who are raped were “asking for it,” were tramps, or actually enjoyed it. Evidently, “legitimate” rape occurs only when a virgin (or a married woman who has only had sex with one partner, her husband) is assaulted by a stranger. Oh, and for most of American history the woman has to be white, and the man is preferably of a different race.

Fortunately, almost everyone recognizes that distinguishing “legitimate” rape from any other form of rape is morally abhorrent and downright outrageous.

Why does this remind me of certain natural childbirth advocates? Though not nearly as morally egregious, natural childbirth advocates have a bad habit of trying to distinguish “legitimate” births for all other births.

Consider this fairly representative comment thread from Mothering.com:

C section mamas – do you still say you “gave birth”?

… I want opinions from c section mamas on this because I was on yahoo and one lady was throwing a *bleep* fit at how some women who have had c sections will say that they “gave birth”. She was really irate because she doesn’t think that c section mamas have the right to say that they “gave birth” because they didn’t physically push the baby out of their vaginas.

The replies included:

Honestly, I don’t feel like I gave birth. I remember thinking it sounded so absurd after DD was born when someone would say to me “You need to take care of yourself too, you just gave birth!”… I’ve talked to other friends that have had c-sections and they feel the same way. There’s a baby there. And you were pregnant and the baby was inside you. But there is a huge disconnect in your brain about how the baby got here

And:

… I don’t say that I “gave birth”, but I say that I had a baby or that my babies were born.

And:

I dont say i gave birth, i say he was born, i dont feel i gave birth, I laboured, but i didnt birth him, the doctor with the scalpel did

In other words, according to certain natural childbirth advocates, only a vaginal birth is a “legitimate” birth.

Their “reasoning” is just as pathetically flawed as that of Rep. Akin. Tragically, there is no single “legitimate” way to be raped. Similarly, there is no single “legitimate” way to be give birth.

In both cases, those who choose to distinguish “legitimate” from other forms have an ulterior motive. In the case of Rep. Akin, his motive is to force his view of moral behavior on everyone else. In the case of natural childbirth advocates, it is to force their idiosyncratic view of birth on other women.

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