I'm sure you've all heard by now about Representative Todd Akin's statements about rape. (If not, you can watch here.)
In less than 30 seconds of a television interview, he articulated two viewpoints that have riled just about everyone -- including many members of his own party.
First, he suggested that rape can be either legitimate or illegitimate. Second, he said that if a woman is a victim of the former, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," and she will not get pregnant.
Today, in a new ad, Representative Akin is asking forgiveness, saying he used the wrong words in the wrong way.
While I had thought this was one guy with a crazy idea, the New York Times reports today that the idea rape cannot end in pregnancy has circulated in anti-abortion circles for more than 25 years.
From the Times:
Dr. John C. Willke, a general practitioner with obstetric training and a former president of the National Right to Life Committee, was an early proponent of this view, articulating it in a book originally published in 1985 and again in a 1999 article. He reiterated it in an interview Monday.
“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight,” Dr. Willke said of a woman being raped, adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”
Not surprisingly, most of the medical experts on reproductive health disagreed. The most succinct response came from Dr. Michael Green, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School.
“There are no words for this — it is just nuts,” he told the Times.
The Times quotes other sources who basically say the same thing. But Dr. Willkie does have support from at least some in anti-abortion circles including an analyst with the conservative Christian group, the American Family Association.
The Huffington Post looked at both the question of "illegitimate" vs. "legitimate rape" while refuting the idea that rape can somehow not lead to pregnancy. From HuffPost Science:
"Physiologically, if the sperm is in the vagina, a pregnancy can occur, regardless of the circumstances of how that sperm got there," said Dr. Melisa Holmes, an ob-gyn and founder of Girlology, an organization that promotes healthy sexuality and communication in families.
And though the anti-abortion Republican says he "misspoke," Holmes says that Akin's remark also suggests that some rapes are not "legitimate," and this continues a harmful misconception about violence against women.
"A rape is a rape, and a woman has the same physical and emotional consequences whether she's raped by a stranger in a dark alley or someone she's known for five years," Holmes told LiveScience. "That's one of those misperceptions that gets perpetuated and unfortunately affects women in a bad way — 'Were you really raped, or were you at fault for part of it?'"
Perhaps Akin is correct in thinking it's not the easiest of tasks to get pregnant; that's why men don't ejaculate just one sperm and instead release nearly 100 million sperm.
Republican party big-wigs are calling for Akin to step down from the Missouri Senate race. He says he will not, but has only until 6pm ET to withdraw. After that, it would take a court order to remove his name from the ballot, AP reports.