A doctor says Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's (R)
controversial "misstatement" about rape and conception was actually
not far off base.
In a recent interview on national television, Akin made a
misstatement in attempting to explain medical information on the
occurrence of conception through rape.
"From what I understand from
doctors, [conception as a result of rape is] really rare," he
said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try
to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that
didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment,
but the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the
Speaking this week on American Family Radio's "Today's Issues," Jane
M. Orient, M.D. of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
(AAPS) said that although Akin did not express himself adequately,
there is medical data to back up what he was trying to say.
"I think Akin was making a statement that in cases of forcible
rape, pregnancy is quite uncommon," Dr. Orient declares. "And there
are medical textbooks that support what he says."
In a related article, Dr. Orient writes that a 1988
textbook, the second edition of Human Sex and Sexuality,
estimates a two-percent pregnancy rate in cases of rape. A 2012
textbook, the sixth edition Comprehensive Gynecology,
gives an estimate of between two percent and five percent and
states, "In the experience of most sexual assault centers, the
chance of pregnancy occurring is quite low."
Dr. Orient elaborates on those statistics, explaining how
pregnancy is sometimes inhibited in a rape.
"Implantation and maintenance of a pregnancy is a very complex
process," she notes. "It depends on a lot of hormones working
properly, and we do know that miscarriages occur more frequently in
women who are under a lot of stress. I don't know of anything that
could be more stressful than a forcible rape, and so even if the
fertilization occurs, it's possible that the stress reaction is
going to cause the pregnancy not to be maintained because the right
hormones mix is not going to be present."
However, Dr. Orient points out that the occurrence and cause of
the pregnancy is not the real issue.
"It may be controversial, and those textbooks may be giving a
big overestimate. Other sources give a much lower estimate," she
admits. "But really, the point is that when a forcible rape occurs
and a woman does get pregnant, despite this, what do you do about
the baby? This gets to the question of what an abortion is
[exactly]. Is it just a medical procedure you regrettably do when
there is a good reason? Or does it involve taking an innocent human
Orient also questions whether killing a baby repairs the harm
that was done to a woman who was raped.
As for Akin's comment, Dr. Orient concludes, "He's a layman and
did not say it the way I would have said it. If we threw everyone
out of the Senate for misspeaking, then we would not have anyone