Medical authority on Akin's side

Thursday, September 6, 2012
Chris Woodward (

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.

Orient, Dr. Jane (AAPS)"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 child."

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 life?"

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 left."

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