According to Todd Akin, Republican representative from Missouri, rape does not result in pregnancy. He also says that his views are different from those of his opponent who “supports abortion.”
Mr. Akin, not only have your statements offended the vast majority of the population of this country, but you have flaunted your ignorance and embodied everything that is wrong with religiously based political campaigns.
This is a science column, not a political column, so instead of filling the lines with political rants and party favoritism, this column will use science and fact to, in essence, show everyone why Akin is wrong. Akin is wrong about rape and pregnancy, and he is wrong about abortion.
In a reality-based world where scientific inquiry means progress and knowledge, it is just as important to prove what is wrong as it is to prove what is right. Our society puts up with a fair amount of conspiracy theories, supernatural beliefs and outdated ways of thinking. With the abundance of papers being published and research being done, it is often difficult to parse the wheat from the chaff. In this case however, just 10 minutes of homework could have saved Akin from all the embarrassment he is now enduring.
Akin made his statement based on “what [he] understand[s] from doctors,” but it turns out that the only “doctor” he is referencing is the author of an extremely controversial paper from 1972, The Indications for Induced Abortion: A Physician’s Perspective, which used research conducted at Nazi death camps in the late 1940s. According to the most recent research, however, between 5 and 6 percent of rape victims in the United States become pregnant, resulting in nearly 32,000 pregnancies every year. Furthermore, many prominent physicians state that rape-induced pregnancy is close to twice as likely as pregnancy from consensual sex. Let me repeat that: Rape is almost twice as likely to result in pregnancy as consensual sex. So not only are Akin’s statements misogynistic and insulting, but they are completely opposite to accepted medical fact.
Another fantastical claim made during this same speech was that if women wanted to, they could “shut down the whole process,” as in, shut down the pregnancy process at will. Pregnancy occurs when a woman is ovulating, and sperm fertilize an egg. If sperm are present, whether through consent or by rape, a woman has no more control over the physiological process than any of us have over the beat of our heart.
Now let’s explore the anti-abortion and anti-contraception debacle. Akin’s entire basis for making abortion illegal is that it is not necessary because rapes do not result in pregnancy. This is a bogus, pseudo-scientific claim that has been debunked over and over again. The argument is that making abortion and contraception legal will only lead to promiscuous behavior. That is akin to saying that lifejackets should be illegal because they lead to dangerous behavior in water, or seat belts should be illegal because they make people drive recklessly.
Akin’s other major mistake was claiming that his opponent was “pro-abortion.” I can say with near complete certainty that no one is pro-abortion. People are pro-choice, as in, they may not support the act of abortion itself, but they believe in the right for a woman to choose her own course of action. It would be a rare occurrence that someone would actively support abortion as a practice.
What many people fail to realize is that freedom of religion also implies freedom from religion. A non-religious individual should have no obligation to obey a religiously based law, just as no one would expect a Christian to obey Jewish laws, or a Jew to obey Islamic laws, and so on.
It is totally fine to have religious beliefs. It is totally fine to have strong religious beliefs. It is not totally fine when an individual or group tries to force those beliefs onto others, especially when those beliefs consist of archaic laws and practices. The extreme evangelism and bigotry endemic in many of these beliefs are not only a violation of our country’s laws, but flaunt the blatant ignorance of the beliefs’ adherents. Every year, let us ask the 32,000 women pregnant from rape whether that rape was legitimate. See how that goes.
HUDSON LOFCHIE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.