Candidate Akin Says "Female Body Has Ways To Try To Shut That Whole Thing Down"
Representative Todd Akin, Republican candidate for a Senate seat for Missouri, and a conservative Catholic, has claimed that abortion would be wrong even in the case of a victim of rape.
In a weekend interview Akin said “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare.”
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin claimed that rape victims have a biological defense that prevents pregnancy.
“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin continued. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Medical studies indicate rape victims do become pregnant at rates of about 5% of the time, the same rate as normal pregnancies.
Akin, an outspoken member of the Republican party, has previously called for banning the "morning after pill" and eliminating school lunch programs. He co-sponsored a failed 2011 bill to limit federal payments to rape victims only in "forcible rape" cases.
Akin later said he miss-spoke about the abortion topic.
The Medieval Idea On Rape And Pregnancy
In English law as late as the 1800s it was thought that a woman could not become pregnant if raped. The legal idea of the time, came about sometime in the 13th century saying any pregnancy would disprove a woman's claim of rape. One early British legal text, Fleta, said, "...for without a woman's consent she could not conceive."
Pregancy was though to be possible only when intercourse included a woman's organsm. It was believed a woman could not become pregnant otherwise, and therefore could not claim to be raped if she were pregnant. By the 19th century this idea was no longer thought true.
Medical Ethics Today For Rape Victims And Treatment For Rape Victims
Catholics medical institutions today follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services in cases of victims of rape. The directives for patient treatment call to "prevent the possible contraction of venereal disease and pregnancy."
The directives say a woman who has been raped may "defend herself against a conception," but adds there must be no evidence that conception has occurred already. She can be treated with medication that would prevent ovulation or fertilization, including the use of anti-fertility drugs within the first 72 hour, or over a period of several days.
The treatment to prevent pregnancy is allowed by Catholic ethics because among other reasons, the woman was not responsible for the action, and because it was not in the context of marriage, where the possibility of conception would have to remain "open to the transmission of life."
Commentary on the ethics of abortion after rape, from the Catholic viewpoint: