The Texas Progressive


This week’s New Yorker cover is pretty great


This week’s New Yorker cover is pretty great

Akin’s Claims Not New in Texas


You might want to sit down for this one: Todd Akin’s claim that a raped woman’s body will somehow shut down a pregnancy before it even happens is not supported by science. (I know, you’re shocked.) And, ironically, one of the most prominent elected officials now calling for Akin to step aside is endorsed by a group that peddles such nonsense in Texas.

The New York Times explains that the claims have floated around in the anti-abortion movement for years, and other media outlets cite as its source a 1972 article from Dr. Fred Mecklenburg of the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Leading experts dispute the article, but that hasn’t stopped the anti-abortion movement from running with it.

That includes Dr. John Willke, past president of the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee. Among other things, Dr. Willke claims — get this — that a raped woman is under such stress that her fallopian tubes tighten.

Dr. Willke explains it this way:

“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, 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.”

To which, Dr. Michael Greene of Harvard Medical School responded like this:

“There are no words for this — it is just nuts.”

In Texas, one of the groups promoting Akin’s claim is Texas Right to Life. On its website in a section titled “The Hard Cases,” the group tries to make the case against laws that allow abortion under some exceptions. In the case of rape, the group claims pregnancy is not common. However, pregnancy from rape occurs at about the same rate as pregnancy from unprotected consensual sex, no matter what the group tries to claim with this cherry-picked stat:

Many individuals believe that pregnancy resulting from rape is a common occurrence. However, there are many sound medical reasons and statistical data that refute this presumption. A 1988 study conducted by The Alan Guttmacher Institute concluded that, of 1,900 U.S. women surveyed who had undergone abortions, only 1% listed rape or incest as their reason for choosing abortion.

Which brings us to Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Cornyn is also the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the outfit tasked with electing Republican senators and which would have financially supported Akin in his bid against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill had Akin not become radioactive. Texas Right to Life has endorsed Cornyn in the past, and according to its website, the senator has met with the group and attended at least one town hall event.

Sen. Cornyn had this to say about Akin’s remarks:

“Congressman Akin’s statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible.”

How does he feel about Texas Right to Life, which has essentially said the same thing?