Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) has come under fire for perpetrating the dangerous myth that “legitimate rape” doesn’t often lead to pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Although Mitt Romney has publicly condemned Akin’s comments, some conservatives haven’t been willing to clearly articulate their opposition to Akin’s misinformation about the biology of rape.
Matt Lewis, a senior columnist at the Daily Caller, is unfortunately not one of the prominent conservative pundits who have called for Akin to withdraw from his current senate race in Missouri. Instead, although Lewis admits that there doesn’t “seem” to be any science to back up Akin’s claims about rape and conception, he still uses his column to speculate about similar junk science that contributes to Akin’s rape mythology:
I’ve heard speculation that women are perhaps more likely to conceive with a partner they deem successful or handsome — or that they are in love with. Others believe that female orgasm actually increases the odds of conception. This may or may not be junk science. But it would at least provide context. Is that what he was getting at? […]
This is obviously a serious conundrum. […] Having said, that, the national media tends to overplay such scandals. Can Akin explain himself and put it behind him? I think it depends how he explains himself.
The fact that Lewis lays out wild theories that “may or may not be junk science” gives a platform to dangerous distortions about women’s bodies. In fact, neither female attraction nor female orgasm have anything to do with the science behind fertility and conception. Nevertheless, these myths have permeated the discourse among radical anti-choice circles throughout the past several decades, and have made their way into politicians’ mouths before. As Mother Jones points out, this type of junk science is so widespread that Planned Parenthood includes it as a frequently asked question on its site: “I’ve heard that a woman can’t get pregnant from getting raped. Is that true?”
As Planned Parenthood feels the need to clarify, it is absolutely not true. One study on the subject, published in the Journal of American Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1996, estimated that instances of rape result in over 30,000 pregnancies annually. A separate 2001 study sampled 405 rape victims and found that 6.4 percent had become pregnant as a result of being raped.