Responding To Akin: When Pro-Lifers Do The Work For Abortion Advocates

I think I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m a little surprised at the reaction to Rep. Todd Akin’s idiotic and unfortunate remarks on “legitimate rape” and the theory that rape victims’ bodies somehow protect them from getting pregnant as a result of the attack.

All of us say (and do!) stupid things at one time or another. Unfortunately, more of us are caught saying them now that media are omnipresent. And politicians seem to say more than their share of things that shouldn’t have been said, as our Vice President appears all too happy to demonstrate time and again.

But Akin has a 100% voting record from the Family Research Council and the National Right to Life Committee, meaning that he’s a 100% against abortion and 100% pro-life. If you want to go after people who are pro-abortion, look no further than Catholics for Obama or Emily’s List.

Instead, people like the editors at National Review Online and others (cf. Dennis Prager and Ann Coulter), are taking their cues from The New York Times and NPR, calling for Akin to step out of the Senate race in Missouri. In other words, those who claim to support pro-life causes are essentially making this a bigger issue than it should be.

The NYT ran a story yesterday, “Health Experts Dismiss Assertions on Rape.”

Here’s a quote from the first expert:

“There are no words for this — it is just nuts,” said Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School.

Shouldn’t an expert be able to point to hard facts? Maybe a study or two? Instead, “it is just nuts.” Thanks for the expert opinion.

Here’s the second expert:

Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, said, that “to suggest that there’s some biological reason why women couldn’t get pregnant during a rape is absurd.”

Wow. Passing his exams must be easy. His students just have to give opinions. No science here, folks. Just keep on driving. Nothing to see.

The only reference to a reputable study? Here you go:

But several experts said there is no solid data on such issues. A 1996 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, generally considered one of the few peer-reviewed research efforts on this subject, estimated that 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy.

To say that there’s no solid data is not the same thing as refuting a theory. The rate of births among women of fertile age is about 6%. Adjusting for miscarriage, still birth, and abortions, would make the pregnancy rates higher. The one study offering a 5% rate of pregnancy resulting from rape is hardly conclusive one way or the other.

Interestingly, when searching the terms “ stress infertility,” The first ten articles, all from the NYT, included seven which suggested a link between the ability to get pregnant and stress. One article proclaimed no such link. Two were irrelevant. WebMD offers references to several articles supporting a connection between infertility and stress.

Now, if women trying to get pregnant are impeded by stress and the associated hormone factors, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to wonder if women who are raped might have a lesser rate of pregnancy resulting from the rape. After all, being the victim of a violent crime would be stressful, to say the least.

With regard to the use of the term “legitimate rape,” it’s a bad, bad choice of words which belies all sorts of confusion since terms like “date rape” were introduced. It’s either rape or it’s not. If it’s rape, it’s bad.

Is Akin a liability? Perhaps. But he becomes more of one when pro-lifers lead the attacks. If NPR and Mother Jones want to dissect Akin, by all means they can. There’s no secret about their ideological or political persuasions. [I don’t see how an editor at MJ is an expert on the question of conception rates for rape victims, but the experts themselves have set the bar pretty low judging from the NYT piece referenced above.] However, people who are supposed to be on the same side of the issues as Akin should not do the work of his opponents. If there are bigger liabilities than a really bad gaffe, then please enumerate them.

Aside – the whole situation makes all too clear just how defensive people can be when trying to defend a pro-life position. Rape has nothing to do with the human dignity of the fetus. Both the fetus and the mother deserve much better than rape, but neither of their lives is worth any less insofar as they are victims.



  • Jordan

    Mr. Obama, who in good wisdom appeared in a press conference, succinctly rejected Mr. Akin’s assertion. Obama calmly said, “Rape is rape.” He did so with conviction and his eyes firmly directed at the camera. What did Mr. Romney do? Send an indirect condemnation. Did he condemn Akin’s statement right from the stump and in front of the media glare? No. Should he have? You better bet. Is the true Christian the candidate who realizes that women aren’t just incubators for the unborn but persons equal in dignity and intelligence to men? Is the true Christian the candidate who demands that no person should sexually marginalize women with degrading statements? Or is the true Christian a candidate who releases a weak condemnation so as not to alienate the “pro-life” lobby crucial for his election, a lobby which contains not a few politicians and supporters who sympathize with Mr. Akin’s position? Every day that Mr. Romney does not unequivocally and publicly reject the extreme pro-life movement’s bizarre and degrading science is a day when more women and men who respect women will pull the D lever on 6th November. Count me in. I no longer see Christianity in the words of those who speak platitudes about life. All I see from “Christian conservatives” is cold political calculation and a lust for power.

  • Just the Facts

    Uh, the stress factors for a woman trying to get pregnant come before intercourse, not after as in the case with rape. It’s amazing the lengths some people will spin to provide substantiation to an utterly ridiculous statement that bears no relation to any reality.

    • Some guy

      Actually, it’s even more ridiculous. A woman who gets raped is not just experiencing stress but rather terror, pain, and an anguish I can’t even begin to imagine. Comparing a woman who wants to get pregnant to a woman who is raped is just sooooo basically wrong.

  • Tracy

    Your wrong about the criticisms he is getting being that those guys are taking “cues” from the NYT. They are saying that he can’t possibly win now that he has said something absolutely idiotic….CAN NOT WIN.
    This is a matter of where this guy should put the good of his country, and all the principles he espouses above himself, which he is not doing. The Senate is going to be decided by a few seats if not possibly just one. There are greater things on the line, overturning ObamaCare, the HHS mandate, amongst all our crazy out of control spending. He should bow out, get another pro-life guy in there and beat the gal he was running against, secure the seat for the senate. It is regrettable, but he has to go, to say he “misspoke” is an understatement. His words were outrageously offensive. Perhaps he is a liability???? Really? The question is how much of a liability…litteraly he could secure that Obamacare and the Mandate stay exactly where they are…that is what we are talking about. Where are the smart politicians who know when it is a good idea to not speak?

  • RPastor

    When I first saw your article title: “When Pro-Lifers Do The Work For Abortion Advocates” I believed it was to discuss how Todd Akin’s was the one doing the ‘work for abortion advocates’.
    Then I read your article…despite what you tried to sugar coat the apparent fact is that ‘Akin’s remark did work to further the goals of abortion advocates’. Alas, at times it seems PL organizations are supremely gifted at shooting themselves in the foot? This is another example of where that is painfully obvious – or do you need a chapter/verse with that?

  • Mara

    Pia, you start by calling Akin’s remarks “idiotic and unfortunate” and then you imply that perhaps part of what he said is accurate and then you go on to say that a pro-life person should not be calling this guy out for what he said. Where are you coming from? Akin’s “legitimate rape” statement implies a very deep lack of respect to all women as does his entire remark. Why are you trying to defend this guy who obviously has no respect for women? This guy is not “100% against abortion and 100% pro-life.” This guy is 100% anti-women.

  • Caroline

    Hi, I think this is actually quite possible, and a Creighton Model medical consultant agrees with me. It happens quite often that when a woman is stressed during her buildup towards ovulation (which could certainly happen in the case of rape if it can happen for much more minor things like a stressful exam coming up), then her body will delay or prevent ovulation and then conception won’t occur. So yeah! Can someone with better connections please defend this guy who was imprudent but not actually stupid?



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