This time, it's a Maryland Republican congressman, Roscoe Bartlett. He embarrassed our state by saying at a town hall meeting:
“Oh, life of the mother – exception of life of the mother, rape and incest. Yeah, I’ve always — that’s a mantra, you know, I’ve said it so often it just spills out. If you really – there are very few pregnancies as a result of rape, fortunately, and incest — compared to the usual abortion, what is the percentage of abortions for rape? It is tiny. It is a tiny, tiny percentage. …. [I]n terms of the percentage of pregnancies, percentage of abortions for rape as compared to overall abortions, it’s a tiny, tiny percentage. [... Most abortions, most abortions are for what purpose? The just don’t want to have a baby! The second reason for abortion is you’d like a boy and it’s a girl, or vice versa. And I know a lot of people are opposed to abortion who are pro-choice.”
So, again, we have a conservative espousing the myth of the magical female whose body knows when it is raped (legitimately, of course) and can somehow protect her eggs from being fertilized by the rapist's semen. But also we have the conservative stereotype of the woman using abortion as a form of birth control and/or a form of gender selection (there is no data to suggest sex-selective abortions are taking place in any great number - but statistically, 9 out of 10 Americans oppose the practice so anti-choice extremists talk it up as a form of concern trolling).
According to a 1996 Medical University of South Carolina study, over 32,000 pregnancies result from from rape annually. The study determined:
Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization.
In 2003, a study by St. Lawrence University, published in Human Nature, found that women are more likely to get pregnant as a result of rape: 6.4% of raped women reported a pregnancy while in the general population, the pregnancy rate for a single act of intercourse is 3.1%. This study's findings are a little higher than the previously reported 5% rape pregnancy.
So what are Bartlett and his fellow anti-choice Republicans talking about? Well, this loathesome article "Rape Pregnancies Are Rare" by John C. Willke, M.D. on Christian Life Resources, might shed some light into the hateful way Christians and conservatives think about rape:
First, let's define the term "rape." When pro-lifers speak of rape pregnancies, we should commonly use the phrase "forcible rape" or "assault rape," for that specifies what we're talking about. Rape can also be statutory. Depending upon your state law, statutory rape can be consensual, but we're not addressing that here.
A relatively new category is "date rape." For some reason this is supposed to be different, but, forcible rape is rape, regardless of whether it occurs on a date or behind the bushes.
See, according to this Christian group, we have to acknowledge that there's fake rape and then there's real rape.
It then goes on to use ridiculously laughable math to attempt to make its invalid and offensive point - that pregnancies for rape are so rare, we don't need to have a rape clause in anti-choice legislation because it will really just be used as an escape clause for women falsely claiming rape to get an abortion.
First, it doesn't matter how rare rape pregnancy is. If one woman a year gets pregnant as a result of rape, she should have the right to choose whether or not she wants to carry a rape pregnancy to term - the government shouldn't force her to do it.
Second, this type of conservative stupidity will only lead us into the wrong debate. We don't need to argue whether or not women should have access to abortion in instances of rape/incest/danger to the health of the mother. It's law, and aside from the few on the extremist right, most agree with it. To engage in that argument is to already concede ground - to move to the right - on the larger argument which is that every woman should have easy and affordable access to abortion services and that no woman should ever be forced by law to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Perhaps this rape/pregnancy thing is a little more than some dunderheaded male conservatives saying stupid and offensive things to reporters - perhaps it's an attempt by the anti-choice extremist right to move the conversation to the right.
We can't get bogged down in debating abortion on the terms of people who think that only "forcible" rape is "legitimate" rape and that the female body magically knows this and is able to prevent pregnancy (meaning that if you get pregnant from rape, well, you weren't really raped). The mantra needs to be easy access and affordable women's health care now!
Meanwhile, if you get the chance, make sure you ask your elected Republican officials in front of reporters what they think about rape and abortion.