Obviously, next week’s election is the most important in the lifetime of anyone living. There’s really nothing much left to say, at least not in this space.
Either you have decided to vote against the psychotic racist narcissist with the dictatorial dreams or not. I’m not going to change any minds.
Donald Trump shall, however, possess one enduring legacy no matter what happens Tuesday: History will remember him as the predator who ended nearly half a century of national protection for women’s reproductive freedom. Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominees, especially the most recent one, will see to that by overturning Roe v. Wade.
I see no point in waiting for the post-Roe world to discuss the forbidden topic of abortion in substance and not just slogan and labels, the preferred currency of both sides of the non-debate. If I’m an outlier, so be it.
We’ve got the perfect guy to focus on, right here in St. Louis County, in state Senator Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester. Koenig is locked in a tight reelection race with state Representative Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood.
At 37, Koenig is viewed as a charismatic rising star by the extreme right flank of his party. And by extreme, I mean he’s part of the creepy Conservative Caucus, six state senators who planted their flag in 2019 apparently out of concern that their eighteen fellow right-wing conservative Republican senators were not sufficiently zealous. Yikes.
By contrast, Lavender is a pro-choice centrist whose air of moderation and studiousness harkens to a bygone era in which actual facts mattered. It’s hard to imagine two more contrasting personas than those of Koenig and Lavender.
Koenig is the proud author of one of the most fanatical anti-abortion laws in America, passed in 2019 and presently under challenge in the judicial system. Koenig’s bill would outlaw abortion at eight weeks — with no exceptions for rape and incest — and would impose criminal sentences of five to fifteen years for doctors.
Koenig has left famed anti-choice warrior John Ashcroft in his dust. For her part, Lavender is solidly, but noiselessly, a NARAL-supported pro-choice candidate who, as is the custom of her party, hasn’t made the abortion issue the centerpiece of her case for election.
Whether that’s the best strategy remains to be seen, but let’s savor this irony: The 15th district lies almost entirely in the congressional district once held by a very famous man: very former Congressman Todd Akin.
Yes, Koenig’s senatorial district is in Todd Akin country. And so is Koenig. More important, Koenig’s actions are worse than Akin’s words with regard to the crime of rape.
To refresh your memory, Akin disgraced Missouri on the national stage in August 2012 to a degree the Marauding McCloskey’s could only dream of. Akin’s weirdness captivated the nation just thirteen days after he won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Interviewed on KTVI-TV by journalist Charles Jaco about whether he believed abortion was justified in cases of rape, Akin responded that rape doesn’t result in pregnancy. Here are his famous words:
“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
Immediately, Twitter exploded with rage, and the reelection of Senator Claire McCaskill was assured when Republicans were unable “to shut the whole thing down” with respect to Akin’s candidacy. “I’ve never spoken with Congressman Akin,” said all doctors.
We can look back on 2012 with a smile. But there’s nothing lighthearted about looking forward to a nation governed by a law as despicable as the one Koenig authored.
Let’s be clear about what Koenig, the “conservative” champion of less government would impose upon the women of Missouri. And let’s do something unusual: state the law affirmatively for what it would impose, rather than negatively for what it would oppose. If a young girl or grown woman is raped — even by a relative — big government will force her to endure a pregnancy and carry the rapist’s seed to childbirth, without her consent or that of her parents, loved ones, spiritual advisers, doctors or anyone else. Period.
This tyrannical edict will be carried out in the name of life as defined by certain Christian religions, in callous disregard for a forgotten First Amendment provision that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The definition of life beginning at conception is not universally held. A wide range of established religious groups differ on the question, publicly and officially.
Koenig’s religiously informed definition of life should never be imposed by a secular government. Whether it’s the Talmud defining the fetus becoming a human being at 40 days of pregnancy or a wide range of Protestant Christian denominations and all manner of non-Christian faiths— or people of no faith — disagreeing with “pro-life” religions, those viewpoints have equal standing under our laws.
The First Amendment clearly protects the rights of those of Koenig’s faith to practice their religion freely. It does not protect their right to write it into law for the rest of us. As a father of a teenage girl, I cannot imagine anything more immoral than a government coercing a child like her to bring a rapist’s spawn into the world if — God forbid — she were impregnated by such a monster.
Just imagine it: Your precious child has just had her world shattered twice. First, with the assault, then with the trauma of learning that the spawn of the rapist is growing inside her. And she turns to you to make it all go away.
Not in Missouri you don’t. No, the state of Missouri does not see a role of government in caring about your little girl, much less you. It has a much higher purpose, you see: It needs to protect the unborn life that can be created by the rape.
And let’s not forget: The horror of this despicable abuse by government is hardly limited to young girls. No woman, of any age, should be persecuted so horrendously by government.
The Centers for Disease Control states that “almost 3 million women in the U.S. experienced rape-related pregnancy during their lifetime.” That might be news to Akin and irrelevant to Koenig. On October 22, Koenig posted the following on his Facebook page: “Of my many legislative accomplishments, the one of which I am most proud is Senate Bill 569. It addresses the backlog of rape kit testing in Missouri and allows for perpetrators of sexual crimes to be more swiftly held accountable for their actions. It has been an honor to see this bi-partisan legislation through on behalf of our state's sexual assault survivors who are looking for justice.”
To be fair, it’s a fine bill, although he didn’t mention that perhaps its strongest point — a requirement that rape kits be free to all women — was an amendment by Senator Jill Schupp, who happens to be the Democratic candidate for Akin’s old congressional seat.
Koenig isn’t bragging currently on his Facebook page about his bill for state government to force rape victims to bear their attackers’ spawn. It’s such a horrible idea, no one wants to think about such a thing, especially at election time.
But thanks to Donald Trump’s anti-choice justices, we might need to get ready for conversations like this. Hopefully with as little participation as possible from the likes of Andrew Koenig.
Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).