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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rape & Pregnancy 101

The Susan B. Anthony List is working with pro-life politicians to develop talking points about pregnancy from rape. The always reasonable Amanda Marcotte sees this as evidence of malfeasance, declaring: "The SBA List isn't interested in discouraging Republican politicians from holding ugly, sexist beliefs about domestic and sexual violence. They're just here to help politicians avoid giving reporters easy soundbites that expose exactly how backwards they are." But this is based on the false premise that the sole purpose of talking points is to communicate with the media and voters. In reality, politicians, who do not have time to research everything themselves, often rely on primers and talking points (whether from staffers or from outside groups like the SBA List) to become educated on an issue. Talking points, in other words, tell politicians what to believe, not just what to say. And I can't think of any way the SBA List could possibly review rape and pregnancy talking points with politicians without along the way mentioning the fact that, yes, people can get pregnant as a result of rape.

But it's not just politicians who need educating. I think that everyone could use a primer on this. So, without further ado:
  • There is some evidence that stress hormones can mess with the menstrual cycle, making ovulation somewhat less likely. "Somewhat less likely" does NOT equal "the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down." Comments like Akin's are extremely offensive: to all women, to rape survivors in particular, and also to people who were conceived in rape (because it's basically suggesting that their moms lied about having been raped).
  • While trying to make sense of a sexual assault is obviously very stressful, the sexual assault itself might not involve stress hormones. We tend to think of rape in a dramatic, Hollywood sort of way, a woman being abducted in the night and forced at gunpoint. But rape can happen in any number of ways. A woman might be drugged, or she might be assaulted while she is sleeping. And then there's statutory rape: a fourteen-year-old girl is not capable of meaningful consent to a sex act with an adult man, even though she might perceive the sex as consensual at the time. 
    • Note: there is absolutely no excuse for pro-life activists/politicians to be ignorant of the connections between statutory rape, teen pregnancy, and abortion.  No excuse.
  • An unfertilized egg can live in the womb for up to 24 hours, waiting for sperm to arrive. If ovulation has already occurred, no amount of stress hormone will stop it. (Rep. Phil Gringey actually made this point himself, but once he said that Akin was "partly right," people understandably stopped listening.)
  • False reports of rape are rare. Any crime can be falsely reported, of course-- but as far as I know, no politician has ever used the phrase "legitimate theft." Reporting a crime takes courage, particularly when the crime is of a very personal nature, so we should not automatically treat reports with suspicion.  
  • Bottom line: Pregnancy from rape can and does happen. Women cannot exercise mind control over their reproductive systems. And when a woman reports that she has been sexually assaulted, she deserves nothing but compassion.
Until everyone grasps these points, we can never have an intelligent conversation about rape, pregnancy, abortion, and the lives of children conceived in rape.

7 comments:

Amanda Smith said...

Good post, really good post.

Obliged_Cornball said...

So very true. The issue of children conceived of rape is very painful to discuss and controversial in politics. But that doesn't mean we should take the Akin route and downplay its significance. If women have the courage to deal with rape, we should at least have the courage to acknowledge their suffering.

L said...

Rebecca Kiessling, who was conceived in rape and almost aborted, has some really good points on her site about rape and abortion. Most of you probably know about her and her site, but just in case....http://www.rebeccakiessling.com/index.html

NorthStar156 said...

Save the 1 is also is trying to educate pro-life politicians on how to respond to questions about rape/incest exceptions.

http://www.savethe1.com/?page_id=426

NorthStar156 said...

The new pro-life group Save the 1 is also trying to educate politicians about how to talk about abortion in cases of rape and incest. The leaders of the group are people who not only are conceived from rape, but have spoken to many groups around the world about the topic. As a result, they have enormous experience with responding to questions about the topic.

http://www.savethe1.com/?page_id=426

NorthStar156 said...

Testing...

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to dispel these people's beliefs. Hey ignorant Republican politicians: denying access to contraception does not dissuade women from having sex, and women can, in fact, get pregnant from rape. How could any woman vote for such bigotry? It's beyond me.