I felt the spirit of Dr. Aaronnette White guiding my fingers for this column. A couple of weeks ago, Aaronnette died suddenly at the premature age of 51 years. A rape survivor and a respected psychology professor, she was a fierce warrior for the reproductive rights of women, particularly African-American women.

During her brief stint in St. Louis during the 1980s, she organized black women (and some black men) to take out a full page ad in The St. Louis American condemning rape in the black community. It was a bold move that pulled the covers off an issue that had rarely received public scrutiny.

Recently Congressman Todd Akin (R) caused a firestorm when asked about his staunch opposition to abortion in the case of women getting pregnant after a rape. He gave this stunning explanation: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

GOP leaders ran as fast and far away from Akin as they could. Karl Rove snatched his money his American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS PAC monies from the Akin campaign. The Republican National Committee chair, along with other party officials, demanded that Akin–who won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Aug. 7–step down.

VP contender Paul Ryan called the remarks “outrageous” and “indefensible.” I found this retort to be quite hypocritical as Ryan shares the same viewpoint. Ryan and Akin have co-sponsored bills that are tearing away at the right to a safe and accessible abortion.

Last year, nearly 1,000 anti-abortion bills were introduced across the country. The laws have teetered on the absurd, such as forcing women to endure vaginal ultrasounds before abortions, or redefining the moment of conception. An Arizona law passed this year declared that pregnancy begins two weeks before conception!

The laws prohibit federal funding of abortion or birth control services resulting in defunding of groups like Planned Parenthood. Abortion clinics have been bombed, and doctors who performed abortions have been assaulted or killed.

The detrimental bills passed by Republicans also have attempted to redefine rape. They have coined new and confusing terms like “forcible rape” and “consensual rape.”

Akin’s comments amplified the voices of some of the 32,000 women who are raped each year but who make a conscious choice to keep their babies. Women like Shauna Prewitt. Did you know that the rapist fathers can sue for parental rights? Prewitt knows all too well.

The attack on rape victims is unconscionable even though these draconian views on rape have persisted in conservative circles for a couple of decades. They have emanated from Dr. John Wilke, a butthead who must have bought his medical degree online at www.degreesforstupidpeople.com. All the other right-wing nuts defer to Dr. Wilke’s demented medical explanation: that women have some biological semen blocker that is released during rape.

I decided to consult a real ob-gyn doctor about the validity of these unscientific ideas; maybe I had missed some new research on the subject. I called up my niece, Dr. Rene Turner, who graduated summa cum laude from real medical schools (Xavier and Tulane) and now works with real women patients. She totally debunked the pre-historic thinking about rape and pregnancies and expressed surprised that any sane person would promote such harmful myths.

This brings me all the way back to the work of Dr. White and countless others who have worked tirelessly to educate the general society on the issue of rape, to end the attacks on women’s reproductive rights and to bring about the personal and psychological security of women. We who believe in freedom and women’s rights should not rest until the lives, choices and dignity of all women are fully restored and protected.

Jamala Thomas

Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American