This week Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) garnered national attention for saying that rape only rarely resulted in pregnancy. This is no isolated incident. Who can forget when Todd Akin spoke of "legitimate rapes" and women shutting "the whole thing down"? But less known is that this argument has been said again and again by several Republicans. Though completely false — a study found that over 32,100 pregnancies result from rape each year and some studies have found that rape victims are more likely to become pregnant than women who have consensual sex — the claim that raped women don't become pregnant is a nice way for Republicans to try to fend off arguments for including exceptions for rape and incest in abortion legislation. See, most Americans, even most Republicans and even most anti-choicers support exceptions in cases of rape and incest.
So, what is a Republican who wants to ban abortion in all cases, with no exceptions whatsoever, to do? Well, he or she merely claims that it's not an issue because rape victims don't get pregnant. See, for example, the way Bush-appointed Judge James Leon Holmes explicitly used the lie that pregnancy never results from rape to support a constitutional ban on abortion: "Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami." You hear that rape victims? You're a red herring. The whole lot of you! Abortion-or-bust absolutist Republicans have found a way to deal with the inconvenient fact that most Americans support exceptions to save the woman's life, too: pretend that pregnancy is never dangerous and never puts a woman's life at risk. It's not true, but that doesn't stop these abortion fundamentalists! Are you seeing a pattern?
Here are some of the outrageous ways they have explained the lie that raped women can't get pregnant, as well as reaction GIFs to what they say. Enjoy! (Thanks to Garance Franke-Ruta and Anna North for finding a bunch of these gems).
Trent Franks was minding his own business, trying to pass his proposal to ban all abortions after 20 weeks with no exceptions, when some uppity Democrat had to bring up the issue of ... well ... rape and incest. Franks responded by saying, "The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."
I admire your commitment to extremist anti-choice legislation. Why let facts and reality stand in your way?
Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who ran against Sen. Claire McCaskill gave his opponent the best gift ever when he said, “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.”
Despite hypocritical calls from Republicans who basically agree with Akin, at least policy-wise but know better than to say crazy things out loud, the Congressman stuck it out. And Senator McCaskill won the election. It was a "legitimate" election and she kinda "shut that whole thing down."
Celeste Greig, the president of California's oldest and largest GOP volunteer group, tried to criticizes Todd Akin. She really did! She said Akin had made "an insensitive remark ... He should have come back and apologized." She went on to, basically, reiterate said insensitive remark: "Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it's an act of violence, because the body is traumatized ... I don't know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don't know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act."
At least she admits she has no idea what she's talking about. And I think she may have a crush on Todd Akin. Can you really blame her?
Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey is not just an anti-choice Republican. He's an OB/GYN, so he knows his stuff. First he defended Akin as being "partly right on that." Then he drew from his own experience, and appropriately compared women who are tense and uptight and need a glass of wine to women who are forced to have sex against their will: "And I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, 'Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate'." A master of language, he used a wonderful metaphor for the biological response to rape, saying "the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak."
In addition to comparing rape to needing to unwind over a glass of wine and horse egress, Gingrey is just wrong. I pity his patients. Who knows what similes and metaphors he employs for a pap smear!
Defending a proposal to eliminate a state abortion fund for poor women, North Carolina Rep Henry Aldridge said, "The facts show that people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work and they don't get pregnant." And this is backed up by the science, according to Aldridge: “Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.” He shed more light on the biological process, saying, “To get pregnant, it takes a little cooperation. And there ain’t much cooperation in a rape.”
All Aldridge was doing was trying to apologize for a previous offensive and ludicrous statement. According to the San Francisco Gate, "Aldridge had the floor during the committee meeting as he was trying to apologize for earlier remarks implying that victims of rape or incest are sexually promiscuous."
Aldridge was a dentist, so he knows his stuff (especially juices), too. I mean, it's the other end of the body, but how different can the two orifices be?
Rep. Stephen Freind, of Pennsylvania had a very precise statistic for the likelihood of a rape resulting in pregnancy: "It is almost but not quite impossible to become pregnant on the basis of rape. The odds are one in millions and millions and millions." And, Freind explained, "there is a physical reason for that." Wait for it: "Rape, obviously, is a traumatic experience. When that traumatic experience is undergone, a woman secretes a certain secretion, which has a tendency to kill sperm." Days later, at a press conference on the capital steps, Friend demonstrated his unwavering commitment to biology and statistics: "If you're expecting me to back off, the answer is no."
To his credit, the Congressman may, one day, be responsible for a new kind of birth control. When told about Freind's insightful comments, Dr. Luigi Mastroianni Jr., director of the division of human reproduction at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said: "Boy, if I could find out what that (secretion) was, I'd use it as a contraceptive."
Fay Boozman was an Arkansas eye surgeon, state Senator, the Republican nominee for the Senate, and a firm believer in the idea that an adrenaline rush triggered by fear causes hormonal changes that block a woman's ability to conceive during a violent attack. A local newspaper reported that Boozman called this ficticious biological process "God's little protective shield." Boozman denied having said this. Phew! He did, however, own up to saying something about rape and pregnancy that was also untrue: "I'm not saying there is a protection against a young lady being impregnated during a rape ... I didn't say that. I said it was rare for that to happen."
Boozman died when his barn collapsedc, but his legacy lives on in the Fay Boozman Award, given each year to a doctor who demonstrates "[e]xcellence in Christian faith and personal life," and "[i]ntegration of faith into the practice of medicine." I hope that means tending to the poor and the sick, as Jesus preached time and time again, and has nothing to do with abortion, something Jesus never mentions at all ... ever ... ever! But it doesn't. Sigh.