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By Jane M. Orient, M.D.
(Jane Orient, M.D., is the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.)
“From what I understand from doctors, that’s (conception as a result of rape) really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” – Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.
All decent people, including U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, agree that forcible rape is a heinous crime. Almost all would agree that illegitimate (false) accusations of rape occur – there’s the case of the Duke lacrosse players, for example.
All reasonable people, including Todd Akin, agree that pregnancy can result from forcible rape – but there is scientific disagreement on how likely it is.
A 1988 textbook, the second edition of “Human Sex and Sexuality” by Edwin B. Steen and James H. Price, estimates a 2 percent pregnancy rate. A 2012 textbook, “Comprehensive Gynecology,” 6th edition, gives an estimate of between 2 percent and 5 percent and states that “in the experience of most sexual assault centers, the chance of pregnancy occurring is quite low.” Estimates depend on flawed methods, with inevitable biases. An experiment to give an accurate figure is, of course, impossible. And does the estimate really matter to the woman who has been raped? Either she gets pregnant, or she doesn’t.
Is the risk of pregnancy lower with forcible rape, and if so, why? Off the cuff, Todd Akin gave a layman’s restatement of the point made by some pro-life physicians that the female body has some defense mechanisms against pregnancy in cases of rape.
The process of fertilization, implantation and maintenance of pregnancy is an intricate one, highly dependent on hormonal signals. Stress is conceded to make miscarriage more likely by disrupting the hormonal milieu. What could be more stressful than a forcible rape?
The intensity of the media outrage against Akin’s remark shows that this is not a scientific dispute about numbers, or the definition of “really rare.” Medical science is being replaced by political demagoguery about the issue of rape.
"We should sink Todd Akin," Rove is quoted as saying in Bloomberg Businessweek. "If he's found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts."
Originally posted by desert
Et tu, Karl??