willful ignorance

Todd Akin Not the Only One Who Thinks Rape Can’t Cause Pregnancy

Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

Missouri Representative Todd Akin has released a statement saying he “misspoke” when he said that when women rarely get pregnant from rape because in the cases of “legitimate” rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” but he’s hardly the first person to make that mistake.

As The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta points out, a handful of Christian and pro-life online resources include the argument that liberals overemphasize the importance of abortion rights for victims of rape and incest because the emotional stress of “assault” rape — i.e. “legitimate” rape — prevents women from producing the hormones required to carry a pregnancy to term anyway. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed’s Anna North dug up even more examples of anti-abortion politicians and activists spouting pseudoscience that rivals creationist textbooks, including our favorite, from former Pennsylvania state representative Stephen Freind. In 1988, he said that the chances of a woman who is raped getting pregnant are “one in millions and millions and millions,” because the trauma causes women to “secrete a certain secretion” that kills sperm.

If only. A 1996 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimated that 32,000 pregnancies result from rape each year, or about 5 percent of victims of reproductive age.

Todd Akin Not Alone in His Beliefs