Since Todd Akin was more than willing to share his "scientific" knowledge of rape with a (mostly) nonplussed American public, it seems only fair that some legitimate medical doctors should get a chance to perhaps offer a more erudite perspective. Akin's claim that "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing [pregnancy] down" when a woman is being raped is, according to a host of board-certified, well-respected physicians a whole truckload of crap.
That isn't to say that Akin didn't have his share of defenders on Monday. According to the New York times Dr. John C. Willke, an early proponent (he wrote a book about it back in 1985, and an article in 1999) of the idea that the female body experiences so much stress during a forcible rape that simply can't be impregnated, said during a Monday interview that there's scientific logic buttressing Akin's wackiness:
This is a traumatic thing - she's [a woman who's being raped], shall we say, she's uptight. She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.
Ignoring Willke's gross understatement, — that a woman experiencing the horrifying trauma of rape is "uptight" — the country's leading experts on reproductive health weighed in to reassure everyone that there isn't any real medical evidence to support Willke's febrile understanding of the biological consequences of rape. Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, said that Willke's logic "is just nuts." Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, added as well that "to suggest that there's some biological reason why women couldn't get pregnant during a rape is absurd."
Bryan Fischer, however, the director of issue analysis for the American Family Association, was also on-hand to defend Akin's absurdity using the only source available — Willke's decade-old article. Fischer read from Willke's article on his program "Focal Point," assuring his stalwart listeners that Willke, unlike the "ignoramuses on Twitter," is a bona fide medical doctor, which should serve as a fact sufficiently frightening for the rest of the week:
To get and stay pregnant a woman's body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There's no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy. In other words, ladies and gentleman, Todd Akin was exactly right.
Except that, according to everyone else, he wasn't. Drs. Greene and Grimes have simply dismissed Akin as spouting nonsense, and a 1996 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimated that about 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy (Dr. Willke, meanwhile, asserted Monday that "way under 1 percent" of rape victims actually become pregnant because rapists either prefer anal intercourse, have weak sperm, or experience premature ejaculation). Though more reasonable health experts have been able to dismiss Akin with actual data and science, social conservatives always seem to find someone willing to lend their expert status to defend a point of view that is dangerously ignorant.
Health Experts Dismiss Assertions on Rape [NY Times]
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