“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
It’s had to know exactly where Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin got his information about how women’s bodies work, but his comments have caused quite a stir. The main points of contention are Akin’s attachment of the word “legitimate” to “rape,” casting doubt on the veracity of some rape claims, and Akin’s ignorance about women’s reproduction.
Many now believe Akin’s comments stem from a 1999 essay written by anti-abortionist activist and GP John Willke, “Rape Pregnancies Are Rare”, in which Willke writes:
… Finally, factor in what is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that’s physical trauma. Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle. To get and stay pregnant a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy…
Keep in mind, Willke was/is not an Ob-Gyn or reproductive biologist, and there is no evidence whatsoever (then or now) to substantiate the passage above. The essay was published by a national anti-abortion group, not in a peer-reviewed journal.
While it is firmly established in the literature that trauma and hormonal abnormalities can disrupt the fertilization of eggs, the emplacement of the zygote in the uterine lining, and the development of fetuses, there is zero evidence — none — that rape-caused pregnancies are more likely than intentional pregnancies to abort naturally.
Frankly, such a study would be hard to execute, since as many as 60 percent of U.S. rapes are never reported (either to law enforcement or to health care providers).
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