Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Todd Akin's Misstatement

Todd Akin's Misstatement

via Clayton Cramer's Blog by Clayton on 8/21/12

It turns out that a lot of studies have been published the last few years showing that pregnancy resulting from rape is about as likely (and perhaps even more likely) than pregnancy resulting from consensual sex.  It certainly would not be surprising if the violence associated with rape was traumatic, and interfered with pregnancy, which is what Akin was trying to claim was the situation.  The evidence, however, seems to show otherwise.  So where did Rep. Akin get this idea?

I can remember some years ago reading in a book opposing abortion about a study done in post-World War II Hungary, where invading Soviet troops behaved about as well as they did everywhere else that they invaded, which did indeed find a very low pregnancy rate resulting from rape.  But I find myself suspicious that other factors may have been at play under these circumstances, including nutritional problems.  My guess is that pro-life groups have been pointing to that study because they fundamentally disapprove of abortion, and therefore have been looking for ways to discredit what is one of the exceptions that most Americans are willing to make with respect to abortion.

This is one of the reasons that I try to emphasize to ideologues of all stripes that if you go looking for evidence that backs your position, you will find evidence that backs your position, and you will miss the evidence that doesn't.

UPDATE: Here is a really harrowing paper that may shed some light on the Hungarian study to which I previously referred: Mladen Lončar, Vesna Medved, Nikolina Jovanović, Ljubomir Hotujac, "Psychological Consequences of Rape on Women in 1991-1995 War in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina," Croatian Medical Journal 47:67-75 (2008).  Of their sample of 68 women who were raped, 42.9% became pregnant, although many were subject to repeated daily rapes and gang rapes, hence the very high rate of pregnancy.

Almost half of women got pregnant as a result of rape. Women who were raped once, compared with those repeatedly raped, had seven times higher risk of pregnancy.
The paper also mentions that many of the women were tortured, forced to watch family members killed, and watch other women raped.  This might explain why the women raped once were subject to so much higher pregnancy risk than the ones who were repeated victims. The repeated victims were apparently subject to much more traumatic situations.

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