Sometimes, it takes a bad blunder by one individual to trigger a long-simmering tension into a full-blow eruption.

Missouri Congressman Todd Akin was that individual. And his blunder became a flashpoint.

Todd Akin’s inconsiderate and indefensible comments on “legitimate rape,” pregnancy, and abortion raise a whole host of questions: Should abortion be allowed in instances of rape? How can we talk about the issue of abortion in a more humane and compassionate way? In a political context, what questions are relevant to helping the lives of women and children and men?

Now we’re talking. And that’s the upshot of Akin’s bizarre remark that’s otherwise incoherent in itself. We’re talking directly about abortion now, when and whether it should be considered acceptable and so on.

Representative Todd Akin’s remarks prompted a CNN headline that abortion is now at the “center” of the 2012 campaign.

And so it is. Now let’s have the discussion.

All people are equal. All choices are not.

People used to value a woman based on who her father or husband was. It is similarly medieval to value a child by the actions of her father. That way of thinking is patriarchal and antifeminist, and it should have passed away with the Dark Ages.

Abortion after rape is misdirected anger. It doesn’t punish the perpetrator of the crime or prevent further assaults against other women.

Feminists for Life’s priority is keeping women safe…

We need to listen to those who have had children conceived through sexual assault and work for short- and long-term solutions that benefit both children and mothers.

Feminists for Life is a proud supporter of the Violence Against Women Act. In fact, we were the only pro-life group active in the National Task Force on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

So maybe now more people will listen to Serrin Foster.

And Matt Franck:

What he said about “legitimate rape” and the chances of a rape victim becoming pregnant was wrong and offensive, and he has apologized. He evidently spoke out of ignorance, and he has learned better. What he said about the injustice of abortion even in the case of rape, however, was absolutely right, and this spoke well of his moral sense. It is a hard saying, but it must be said: The abortion of a child conceived because of a rape is as wrong as any other abortion. Women and their babies, in every kind of crisis pregnancy, need our love, compassion, and support. But abortion is never what anyone needs to heal a wound; it only opens a new one.

It is by now a familiar question from liberal journalists when interviewing pro-life candidates: “You’re against all abortions — what about in cases of rape and incest?” Pro-lifers need to learn how to answer this question, because they can always expect it. The question tugs at heartstrings and aims at exposing a weakness. The appeal to compassion for rape and incest victims must be answered with real compassion for both parties in any pregnancy — mother and child. As for the politics of it, a pro-lifer can always say, “I am for any legislation that reduces the number of abortions and legally restricts a grave injustice. If that means a bill that eliminates most abortions that are legal now but makes an exception for rape and incest, I’m for it. But that doesn’t mean I’m for the exception. Every abortion is a tragic wrong, and we must work to restore respect for the sanctity of every life, from conception to natural death, no matter what the circumstances.”

And Michaelene Fredenburg:

When I speak or write about the grief and loss due to abortion, I remind myself that at least half of all Americans have been personally affected by abortion — either through their own abortion or by the abortion of someone close to them. I consider how my word choices, tone of voice, and body language may be understood by men and women who feel isolated and alone in their pain and grief. Any communication about abortion and other reproductive outcomes may elicit painful memories and emotions, so I am careful to demonstrate compassion and support.

And David French, all of what he said:

Several years ago during a morning drive, I was listening to a rather animated discussion about abortion on — of all things — a local classic-rock radio station. The morning DJs were mocking Christian conservatives in the way Rolling Stone liberals do, by presuming that all intelligent people agree, the issues are settled, and the backward and bigoted carry on only through ignorance and fear.

Then a call came in that silenced them — at least for a moment.

“Hi, I’ve been listening to y’all discuss abortion,” said a quiet female voice on the other end of the line, “and I’ve got my own story to tell.”

“My mother was attacked and raped, but she decided my father’s assault shouldn’t mean that I should die. So she carried me, gave birth to me, and raised me. I’m glad she didn’t kill me for my father’s crime.”

That is how we should talk about abortion in these most painful of circumstances — as a matter of innocence. Under what circumstances can we take a wholly innocent human life? Does the rapist’s dreadful crime justify dismembering a child?

But we can’t talk about legalities alone. It is in these most difficult of circumstances that the church must step up to support and sustain the mother through the most terrifying and trying time of her life. Along with a sacred duty to defend innocent life comes a sacred duty to support and care for mother and child.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America:

Pope John Paul II wrote: “Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create. Violence and war can never resolve the problems of men.” It is insensitive to say to a woman who has been raped that the horrific violence of rape can be eased or erased by simply aborting the child conceived during the rape. One act of violence cannot erase another.

Because of the 15-second media culture we live in, pro-life politicians today feel they must say abortion should be legal in cases of rape and incest. Talking about the horrific violence of rape and the personhood of all human beings in a way that is compassionate and sensitive is not possible in a 15-second sound bite. The pro-life movement must do more to educate Americans about the personhood of all human beings. Only then will pro-life politics follow.

Kathryn Jean Lopez:

Questions asked about rape on the campaign trail in reference to abortion remind me of when, a presidential-primary cycle ago, a reporter asked Mitt Romney if he would support a Human Life Amendment. He seemed amazed such a question would be asked, for we would be living in a changed country if the Supreme Court overruled Roe and Congress passed, and the states ratified, such an amendment; we’re not there yet, so let’s talk about what we can do to make abortions seem unthinkable in the lives of women who find themselves pregnant. Only the hardened ideologue doesn’t want to help mothers be mothers. We ought to focus on this in our politics and in our civic communities. This is a legitimate conversation, and a compassionate one.

That’s a chunk of the NRO symposium. There’s more, and it’s well-considered and timely.

And then there’s this gem I came across on the LA Times, by Meghan Daum. No matter what you believe about the issue, this challenges it.

Like any sentient person, I was appalled by Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.”…

But unlike the many people proclaiming their outrage on Facebook and Twitter, I’m actually grateful to Akin…because he has forced those who feel strongly about abortion to face the truth: When it comes to abortion, you’re either in or you’re out. For all the talk about exceptions for rape and incest, for all the hand-wringing about what constitutes “legitimate” sexual violence and whether pregnancy can result from rape, the real issue has nothing to do with rape. The real issue is whether abortion should be legal or illegal.

Period. Full stop. That’s it.

And this will certainly be continued.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....