The Weird Debate on Rape Pregnancies
Senate candidate Todd Akin kicked it off saying that women rarely get pregnant during a rape because their bodies have a way of shutting it down.
Now, all sorts of news people are trying to get to the bottom of the Great Rape Debate.
I found this article in the New York Times. It makes clear that few if any women's health experts believe that female rape victims are able - consciously or unconsciously - to shut down their reproductive organs during the assault.
And that sure sounds right. What doesn't sound right are the numbers provided by women's health experts as to the number of women who get pregnant during a rape yearly.
The experts cite a 1996 study that avers more than 32,000 rape victims a year conceive during the assault. That is apparently the only study ever done on the question. They also say that only 5 percent of rape victims get pregnant. Based on those figures, that means some 640,000 women were raped that years. But the FBI says about 90,000 "forcible rapes" are reported (their term not mine) annually. So maybe only 1 in 7 rapes are reported.
But still 32,000 sounds like an awful lot of pregnancies resulting from rape. Especially given the fact that according to sex crime experts only half the rapists ejaculate in the commission of their crimes and many others penetrate their victims non-vaginally.
In 1999, a pro-life doctor named John Willke analyzed the crime data on rape and postulated far that less than 1 percent get pregnant as a result. You can check his statistical analysis here. Willke is a proponent of the theory that stress and trauma can make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant, though he doesn't make a very strong case
Still, he only attributes a 50 percent reduction in the number of pregnancies he figures occur as the result of a rape - from about around 700 a year to less than 300. That's a pretty big disparity - 32,000 to 300.
Either way, there seems to be a pretty strong consensus in this country that rape victims should be allowed to abort their pregnancies if they want. Though, not all of them do.
Pro-lifers who believe that a human embryo is a human being are pretty stuck with having to be against abortion even in cases of rape and incest, whether there are 300 or 3,000 or 30,000 such cases of them.
But then staunch pro-choicers are stuck with having to defend partial-birth and other late-term abortions on demand.
The rest of the country is in the middle and need not pay too much attention to extremists in this argument. This much is probably true, to the extent that Democrats attempt to exploit the Akin's unfortunate (for him) comments, it could turn off moderates who don't like thinking too much about rape, incest, abortion and all that other messy stuff.
Pushing these issues too hard at their convention will offend moderate and independent voters. It remains to be seen if the Dems understand that.