by Joel McDurmon
We expect leftists, liberals, and other miscreants to pounce opportunistically, to lie, cheat, and twist (all the while drooling) over a phrase like “legitimate rape” when uttered by a strong conservative Christian politician. But should we expect the same from alleged conservatives?
Yet this is exactly what we’ve seen from several prominent conservatives in the wake of a media gaffe from U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO) in regard to alleged “legitimate rape” and abortion.
What could have been quickly and easily handled with a consolidated response correctly interpreting Akin’s unfortunate phrase was instead a rare cause of bipartisan hazing.
It’s an old and reliable political reality: liberals care for even the criminals in their midst, while conservatives shoot their wounded. So, for example, Joe Biden can put all three of his left feet in his mouth twice a week and the media performs damage control (and perhaps leash training as well). The Right can scream and howl but the matter gets buried in no time. And thus, the male-prostitute hiring Barney Franks of this world retire from Congress as alleged civil rights heroes.
Meanwhile, let a conservative utter an awkward phrase, and it’s ready, aim, fire—not only from the leftist media, but from alleged conservatives like Ann Coulter, Scott Brown, the Romney-Ryan campaign, and the RNC itself. “We’re not associated with him!”
And in this case, the volley of verbal bullets came with disproportionate verve. It’s almost like the GOP establishment is more than eager to get rid of the most conservative tea-party types among them. (This is not to endorse Akin myself. I find his views on foreign policy and unlimited military-empire spending far less than biblical.)
Here’s the Akin incident, as reported by the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Akin prompted the uproar with his response to a question in a KTVI television station interview in St. Louis about whether abortion should be legal in cases of rape.
“It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” he said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Ann Coulter blasted Akin in numerous ways, saying she would “hate” him unless he withdraws from the race. More on Coulter in a minute.
Romney-Ryan stated they “disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” More on their pro-choice exception in a minute.
RNC chairman Priebus called the remarks “dumb,” “biologically stupid,” and “bizarre.”
Needless to say, the leftists are in high gear and their attacks are as numerous as they are fallacious. There are two chief parts to the criticism from both sides: the phrase “legitimate rape,” and the issue of the rape exception for abortions.
The left immediately ran with the idea of “legitimate rape” meaning that Akin must believe that only some rapes are carried out legitimately and others are “illegitimate,” and this an unacceptable “blame-shifting” and “sexist” view.
Now, this would have been a wonderful time for the Right to engage is education, courage, and square, powerful refutation: exposing how stupid and devious liberal politicians are. Expose their lunacy and lies for all to see! This is an opportunity!
Nope. Instead, they savaged the truth and bent, like quivering grass in the winds of assumed political fallout, before the left’s claims.
Coulter didn’t even get the position right: she says Akin should have responded “Yes, it’s still a life, but more people are killed in drive-by shootings in Chicago every year. You give us the 2 million abortions that aren’t a result of rape and incest and we’ll give you the few thousand that are.” Not really. Akin’s position is that of denying exceptions for instances of rape also; so this imaginary compromise may be what partial-pro-life moderates believe, but it certainly doesn’t represent how Akin could have said his view more clearly.
But what she’s really upset about is the rhetoric of it all. Politicians “should have a clear, nonthreatening answer at the ready.”
“Nonthreatening.” Right. Not to unborn babies, of course, but to potential voters. Thus do we sacrifice both life and truth on the altar of rhetorical fear. This is an insult both to true conservatism and the right to life, but also to the sense of most voters. Coulter and her likes in the party are assuming that most people vote purely on mindless, uninformed, ignorant emotion. And she is making this, rather than principle, the operating assumption of her political rhetoric. Thus we need good, quick, “nonthreatening” rhetoric, even at the expense of truth.
Coulter is, of course, an expert at rhetoric. It’s all she’s ever done.
Priebus also assumed the left’s argument when he said “whatever an illegitimate rape is—you know that’s not even something that we could conceive of.”
But it is very easy actually.
Akin was likely relying on the work of physician and former National Right to Life president John C. Willke, who wrote a three part series, “Assault Rape and Pregnancy” (3 parts), National Right to Life News, July 17, August 21, and October 9, 1986. This series is condensed at the website of Physicians for Life.
Willke began that piece with what is a well-known position on the definition of “rape” and how it is reflected in statistics:
We should use the phrase “forced rape” or “assault rape” for that specifies what we’re talking about. Rape can also be statutory. Depending upon your state law, statutory rape is intercourse with a girl under a certain age, often 16. Statutory rape can be consensual, but it is still statutory rape.
Another category is “date rape”. For some reason, this is supposed to be different, but, forced rape is still rape, regardless of whether it occurs on a date or behind the bushes. If a college woman is raped on a date, she should report it to the police and pursue charges. Further, she should undergo a medical examination and treatment, just as she would in the aftermath of an assault rape. It is not a separate category.
He then added, “Assault rape pregnancies are extremely rare. . . .”
We’ll cover more on why he concluded this in a moment, but from this much we can see exactly, clearly what Akin meant when he used the phrase “legitimate rape.” He was referring to cases of actual, criminal, forcible rape as opposed to several other conceivable definitions that are not actually “rape,” but only legally, socially, or anecdotally reported so, or claimed as such for whatever reason—true or otherwise.
There is, after all, the distinct possibility that if abortion were outlawed but with an exception for “rape,” that many of the women who buy abortions purely out of convenience today would then simply claim to have been raped in order to procure the legality.
For some reason, even to mention the possibility that a woman may lie about being raped is supposed to be politically incorrect—untouchable. It enrages leftists, and for some reason, therefore, frightens conservatives. Are a woman’s intentions never to questioned—completely off limits—when she claims to have been raped?
The answer is generally yes, but there is a least one major exception to this: When she intends to use that claim as justification to murder an innocent third party, a baby. The right to life trumps the right to privacy.
Liberals may wish us to believe that no woman would ever stoop so low as to lie about being raped. But this simply does not comport with what we Christians know about fallen human nature. We, conservatives, all agree that millions of women annually conspire to commit murder on their unborn babies. So do you expect me to feel it unacceptable to believe they would lie about why? This is political correctness run amok. Why, after all, would someone willing to kill out of convenience not also lie for various reasons out of convenience?
But liberals hate both the idea that some alleged “rapes” are not “rape” in the true sense, and the fact that because this is so, the statistics of rape and pregnancy are not as high as they would like to claim. Thus, some liberal at Slate Magazine blasts Akin: “tens of thousands of women are impregnated by rape annually.” The link takes you to the “proof” of this “tens of thousands” claim.
The Holmes Study
But that proof—also now featured on Fox News and Reuters, among others—is a government-funded report carried out with an eye toward solving what it calls an “national epidemic” of “unintended pregnancy”—with a clear reference to “objectives” from the Department of Health and Human Services in this regard.
And it’s quite flawed in methodology and reporting. On the first count, it’s a purely anecdotal study not supported with any legal, medical, or forensic evidence. The basic empirical data of the number of rapes and victims was collected by a series of phone interviews completed with 3,031 women at random. The questions used to define rape seem legitimate enough, but there were absolutely no critical controls upon verification of the claims. None. As such, this is a purely anecdotal study (relying not only upon honesty, comprehension, and possibly interviewer bias, but in some cases also distant memories).
There was also no control or verification upon whether the alleged pregnancies were actually a result of the alleged rapes reported by these random interviewees.
Even at that, the results are not quite what the study reported them to be. The actual percentage of rape-related pregnancies (assuming they are all verifiably rape-related) was 3.2 percent. This was for the total number of reported pregnancies (20) resulting from the total number of reported rapes (616) among the sampled women.
The report then sorts for age-specificity and finds that for all women in the study 18 years of age or older, the rate increased to 4.7 percent—an unimposing number in appearance, but actually a 47 percent increase.
And then comes another big sneak: The study reports that there is a “weighted prevalence” of 606,690 rapes annually among all adult women (18+). It says nothing about how it derived this figure save to compare it to an equally high number reported for one year by the same “National Women’s Study” within which this rape-related pregnancy study was drawn. The problem here is that this number is extremely high compared to most others. RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization states there are around 207,000 annually.
But the Holmes study reports the 606,690 figure, and then also applies its higher 4.7 percentage to that apparently inflated number. This is how it determines that “there may be 32,101 rape-related pregnancies annually.”
So whence the inflated number of rapes, for one? And second, why use the controlled 4.7 percent instead of the actual 3.2 percent which the overall study concluded? Here’s my guess, from later in the study:
With >32,000 rape-related pregnancies occurring each year among adult women in the United Stats [sic], . . . rape-related pregnancy is a significant problem that warrants closer attention. . . .
[T]he occurrence of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest holds important public health and policy implications. For example, policy debates surrounding abortion funding for cases of rape and incest have historically lacked scientific foundation as they have been based on data from the small proportion of reported cases.
In short, this is a classic academic-government collusion to inflate the nature of a problem in order to justify an ideological government “solution,” throw more money into another government program, and pay “closer attention” (translation: fund more academic studies).
But let’s not take my ideological word for it. Hear what an academic peer reviewer published with the very study itself has to say:
When evaluating this study, one must initially consider the difficulties associated with interviewer bias. The interviewer had the discretion to classify an event as a rape even if the woman did not identify it as such, seek medical care, or notify police authorities. In accordance with the wording and interpretation of the questions, some variability in the classification of individual cases could occur. . . .
Dr. Holmes reports that 32% of women who became pregnant as a result of a rape were not aware of the pregnancy until the second trimester. A recent study that used deoxyribonucleic acid [DNA] analysis techniques reported that 60% of women who became pregnant after an assault were instead pregnant by a consensual partner. Inasmuch as 64% of the women in this study were either married or cohabitating, it must be assumed that these individuals were exposed to consensual intercourse. Therefore without the appropriate deoxyribonucleic acid [DNA] analysis the pregnancies cannot conclusively be ascribed to the rape incident. The issue is further complicated when the reported assailant is either the victim’s husband or her boyfriend and sexual relations were at times consensual and at other times forced. In the latter circumstance it is impossible to differentiate whether the pregnancy was a result of consenting versus forced sexual exposure.
The reviewer has the same criticism I did: the evidence of rape is anecdotal, interpreted and possibly biased, and the claims that the pregnancies resulted from the rapes are not verifiable.
This latter problem is exacerbated by the fact of simultaneous cohabitation which was widespread as this very study notes. Indeed, only 40 percent of post-rape pregnancies were from the rape itself (as 60 percent were from consensual partners).
Taking all of these legitimate controls into account, the number of actual pregnancies that can be said to result for actual cases of forcible rape are much lower than liberals would like to admit. Doing some easy math, even using this study’s questionable anecdotal numbers, we can see that rape results in pregnancy in only about 1.3 percent of cases:
(3.2 percent overall post-rape pregnancy rate) x (40 percent actually resulting from rape) = 1.28 percent.
But this means that rape-related pregnancies do not occur in about 98.72 percent of rape cases. Heck, even assuming the full 3.2 percent is representative, this means rape-related pregnancy is still relatively rare—not occurring in 96.8 percent of cases.
In short, comporting with what Todd Akin said, pregnancies as a result of rape are justifiably be called “rare.”
What about that “female body” claim?
What sounds strange at first, especially when listening only to the mainstream media and the neoconservatives who give the mainstream media too much credit, is the second half of Akin’s claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Again, this statement came straight from the former president of the National Right to Life, Willke, in his series, “Assault Rape and Pregnancy.” Willke provided a list of considerations to prove that pregnancy resulting from forcible rape is extremely rare. This list culminates with the “woman’s body” claim as one consideration among many:
- A woman is capable of being fertilized only 3-6 days of a 30-day month. Multiply our figure of 133,000 by 0.3. Three days of 30 reduces to 1 of 10. Divide 133,000 by 10, and we have 13,300 women remaining. If we use 5 days of 30, then we have 1 of 6. Divide 133,000 by 6 and there are 22,166 women remaining.
- One-fourth of all women in the U.S. of childbearing age have been sterilized, so the remaining three-fourths comes to 10,000 (or 15,000).
- Only half of assailants penetrate her body and/or deposit sperm in her vagina1, so cut the remaining figures in half. This leaves 5,000 (or 7,500).
- Fifteen percent of men are sterile, which drops that figure to 4,250 (or 6,375).
- Another 15% of women are on the pill or already pregnant. That reduces the number to 3,070 (or 4,600).
- Now factor in the fact that it takes 5-10 months for the average couple to achieve a pregnancy. Use the smaller figure of 5 months to be conservative and divide the above figures by 5. The number now drops to 600 (or 920).
- In an average population, the miscarriage rate is about 15%. In this case, we have incredible emotional trauma. Her body is upset. Even if she conceives, the miscarriage rate will be higher than in a more normal pregnancy. If 20% of raped women miscarry, the figure drops to 450 (or 740).
- Finally, factor in what is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that’s psychic 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, and implantation.
What further percentage reduction in pregnancy will this cause? No one knows, but this factor may well cut this last figure by at least 50%, which would make the final figure 225 (or 370) women pregnant each year from forced rape. These numbers closely match the 200 that have been documented in clinical studies.
Now probably the most important figure in all of this is that last sentence: “These numbers closely match the 200 that have been documented in clinical studies.”
Despite such correlation, the liberal at Slate dismisses the “woman’s body” claim as “selective use of numbers and citations” and thus “junk science.” Well, when junk journalism claims “junk science,” consider me less than persuaded. See how that type of argumentation works?
This Slate is the same publication relying on the Holmes study—which we’ve seen is flawed, unscientific, and questioned by other secular peers—for its perception of the problem. Talk about “selective use of numbers”!
I say junk science is as junk science does.
Willke’s study, which correlated with documented (not mere anecdotal) data, could conclude, “So, assault rape pregnancy is extremely rare.”
Indeed, this is nothing short of the National Right to Life’s position. Speaking of “rape, incest, and fetal abnormality” as a group, one publication notes:
First of all it is critical to remember that the vast majority of abortions do not happen as a result of any of these reasons. In fact, according to a study in Family Planning Perspectives (published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which is the research arm of Planned Parenthood), less than 6% of all abortions done in the United States are done for all of these reasons combined.
If all combined account for 6 percent, then rape alone must account for far less. Thus the same publication can call rape-related pregnancy “a rare but possible occurrence.”
So why neoconservatives are in knee-jerk reaction mode against this position makes no sense—if they truly are pro-life. Akin was not unwarranted in citing these claims, and conservatives should stand with them just as Akin and, according to the Wall Street Journal, Willke himself have done.
Should conservatives make an exception for even “legitimate” cases of assault rape?
Why kill the child?
Again, we expect liberals to lie, spin, and twist, but why should conservatives wage a propaganda attack against a man holding the very position of the National Right to Life on rape-related abortion? Here’s more of that position:
But while society is finally recognizing that rape is an act of violence against an innocent victim, it still fails to recognize that abortion is also an act of violence against another innocent victim. . . .
Irrationally, society expects her to kill her unborn child, not for something the child has done, but for the crime of his/her father. Once again the mother is pitted against her child.
Yet, the Romney-Ryan campaign, among others, could not respond fast enough to Akin’s alleged gaffe, not by criticizing the clumsy use of language, but by denying the right to life in cases of rape: “a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” That’s a categorical statement, categorically at odds with the right to life. This is a semi-pro-choice position.
Unlike the moderates on pro-choice, Akin upheld this view faithfully, even in his response to the fear-motivated uproar:
“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year,” Akin’s statement said.
Akin also said in the statement he believes “deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”
Exactly. As emotional an issue as it is, why in the world do we think it’s acceptable to murder a child because its father committed a crime and its mother is physically and emotionally shaken?
Since when does being physically and emotionally shaken give one the right to kill someone else?
If the unborn have a right to life, from what or whom does that right derive? God? Nature? Man? We know it’s God, and nothing else. And what has the God-given authority to take away that right from an unborn child? Man? Circumstance? We know it’s nothing but God. Thus, why would we think we can determine, based on any circumstances, why one child in utero deserves that right and another does not? Again, while the thought of carrying a rapist’s child is an emotionally difficult issue, that fact does not negate the child’s God-given right to live.
And thus anyone denying that right, even in cases of rape, is not pro-life. They are worse, in fact: trying to play God by setting determinations for when that right applies and when it does not.
Thus, those neoconservatives who have blasted Akin and demand he step down have done little more than identify themselves as weak on the pro-life issue—as moderates and potential compromisers, in fact. This is an indication that a Romney admin and its bucket carriers will melt the Republican platform further into moderatism, and thus drift the nation closer to the liberal agenda.
Of course, politicians like Akin, who represent the clear contrast and strong conservatism desired by the tea party, are a real threat to the old Northeastern establishment Republicans like Romney. And thus that establishment savages him—violently and in unison. Call it a political gang rape—a legitimate one.
If more conservatives would begin to realize that the Republican party is nearly being held hostage by these establishment types—who are working hard either to co-opt or suppress the much more strongly conservative tea party types—we would see we have the numbers and power to establish real change for the good, including in the area of abortion.
And if we could just get the Todd Akins in that camp to realize that their warmongering and militarism are just as much pro-life issues as abortion, then we might really make so headway.
- Holmes et al. “Rape related pregnancy: Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1996 Aug; 175(2): 322. [↩]
- Holmes et al, 322. [↩]
- “Olivia Gans and Mary Spaulding Balch, “When They Say. . . You Say: Defending the Pro-Life Position and Framing the Issue by the Language We Use,” National Right to Life Committee, Inc. [↩]Joel McDurmon, M.Div., Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary, is the Director of Research for American Vision. He has authored four books and also serves as a lecturer and regular contributor to the American Vision website. He joined American Vision’s staff in the June of 2008. Joel and his wife and four sons live in Dallas, Georgia.