Republican congressman says « legitimate rape » does not cause pregnancy

Representative Todd Akin, a Missouri congressman who is also his party’s nominee for the US Senate, said that « from what I understand from doctors » women’s bodies naturally reject pregnancies that result from rape.

The six-term representative made the comments as he argued that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape or incest.

« First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare, » Mr Akin told a local television channel. « 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. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child. »


(For the record: rape does, in fact, get women pregnant, possibly more often than consensual sex.)**


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« Are per-incident rape-pregnancy rates higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates? »

Human Nature 2003, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 1-20 Jonathan A. Gottschall, Tiffani A. Gottschall


Is a given instance of rape more likely to result in pregnancy than a given instance of consensual sex? This paper undertakes a review and critique of the literature on rape-pregnancy. Next, it presents our own estimation, from U.S. government data, of pregnancy rates for reproductive age victims of penile-vaginal rape. Using data on birth control usage from the Statistical Abstract of the United States, we then form an estimate of rapepregnancy rates adjusted for the substantial number of women in our sample who would likely have been protected by oral contraception or an IUD. Our analysis suggests that per-incident rape-pregnancy rates exceed per-incident consensual pregnancy rates by a sizable margin, even before adjusting for the use of relevant forms of birth control. Possible explanations for this phenomenon are discussed, as are its implications to ongoing debates over the ultimate causes of rape.

Jonathan Gottschall received his Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University and now teaches at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. His research focuses on bringing a Darwinian perspective to literary analysis and his publications include articles placing events in the Homeric epics, including rape, in evolutionary context. Tiffani Gottschall received her Ph.D. in Economics from Binghamton University and now teaches at St. Lawrence University. Her research focuses on explaining fertility differentials between American Indians and other American demographic groups.
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