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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Rep. Todd Akin’s fame — more accurately, his infamy — now reaches all the way to the Congo.

There, Eve Ensler, the award-winning American author of “The Vagina Monologues” and herself a survivor of rape, wrote an open letter castigating last week’s suggestion by the Republican congressman that when a woman is a victim of “legitimate rape,” her body has means of preventing pregnancy. As it happens, Ensler is in the Congo working to help some of the thousands of women raped in the fighting there. She called Akin’s words “ignorant.”

Nor is hers the only voice of international opprobrium. Criticism of the Missouri lawmaker has rung from such far points as London (“shamefully inaccurate”), Belfast (“profoundly offensive”) and Paris (“medieval”). A writer in Australia dubbed Akin a “boofhead” — apparently, not a compliment. All this, plus domestic denunciation, including sharp criticisms from his own party.

Akin, make no mistake, richly earned every ounce of contempt that now rains upon his head. What he told KTVI-TV, the Fox affiliate in. St. Louis, manages to combine repulsiveness (“Legitimate rape?” As opposed, one supposes, to the rapes where “she brought it on herself”?) and remarkable ignorance (Does he really think the uterus is equipped with a force field?) into one appallingly malodorous ball of stupid. Naturally, given his grasp of biology, Akin sits on the House Science Committee.

Yes, you read right. You can’t make this stuff up.

Still, this is not about one congressman’s need for sensitivity training and remedial science. Akin is hardly unique, after all. To the contrary, he is just the latest vivid example of conservatism’s unrelenting hostility toward women’s reproductive rights — as in a Texas judge who just upheld the state’s ban on Planned Parenthood. Indeed, even as this controversy was simmering, the GOP unveiled a proposed platform plank calling for a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. It’s a plank Akin himself could have written.