Missouri Republican House Rep. Todd Akin incited a firestorm of controversy early this week after he claimed in a TV interview that rape, “legitimate rape,” does not tend to result in pregnancy due to certain unspecified biological functions that prevent conception under duress.
And it would seem, in the era of the “war against women” some say is waged by the GOP, that this rhetoric went too far even for the most right-leaning Americans, and some prominent Republicans — including Mitt Romney — rushed to repudiate the controversial remarks, but not before very significant damage was done in the eyes of many who might be on the fence about which way they will vote in November.
It certainly is not so that Akin’s offensive remarks represent mainstream GOP sentiment, nor should anyone suggest as much. But it may be fair to say that remarks like Akin’s — which are often referred to as “rape apology” by victims’ advocates — are somewhat of a natural, logical extension of a party that widely seeks to reduce availability to birth control, abortion, and equal pay and generally presents a far less amenable view of women’s rights in general.
What may not surprise you, however, is that there is no scientific basis for Akin’s claim. And while the science doesn’t support a lower rate of conception overall stemming from rape, remarks like Akin’s serve to chip away at gains made in rape awareness in recent decades, the sort that have slowly reminded us that it wasn’t very long ago at all that the length of a woman’s skirt was enough to determine to those in power whether she had any responsibility for her own victimization.
Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, explained of the notion that it was unequivocally scientifically misguided — a troubling fact, considering Akin sits on the House’s science committee:
“A woman who is raped at a vulnerable time in her menstrual cycle is as likely to conceive and retain a pregnancy as a woman who was voluntarily attempting pregnancy,” said ACOG’s Levy. “There’s absolutely no validity to any sort of theory that the trauma related to rape – or to any thing else for that matter – would shut down ovulation that has already begun.”
It is theorized that pregnancy resultant from rape may actually occur more frequently after consensual sex.