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August 2012

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Todd Akin Scandal: Do Republicans Understand Science?

Written by , Posted in General

Written by Rik Sault, Contributing Writer

When I first heard about Todd Akin’s now super-infamous, and perhaps career-ending comment about how “legitimate” rape victims won’t get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” I thought, “Maybe Republicans and science just don’t mix.” After turning down my partisanship a few notches, I was still shocked by how Akin’s extreme, pro-life comments seemed to fly in the face of rudimentary biology . . . you know, the centerpiece of the life sciences.

At a fundraiser in NYC on Wednesday night, President Obama remarked, “The interesting thing here is that this is an individual who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology but somehow missed science class.”

Vexingly, a few other Republican lawmakers have made the claim that the female body somehow protects against pregnancy during a sexual assault. For example, in 1988 Pennsylvania Rep. Stephen Freind once claimed that women who are raped “secrete a certain secretion which has the tendency to kill sperm,” and in 1995 North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge said, “The facts show that people who are raped – truly raped – the juices don’t flow.” Truly raped, he said. Yikes!

According to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape every year. Moreover, a 2003 study published in the journal Human Nature found that the rate at which women get pregnant after a rape or sexual assault is more than twice that of a single act of consensual sex. Dr. Lauren Streicher, an assistant professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, was not surprised by that data. And in response to Akin’s statement, Streicher said, “You let me know if you find the doctor that knows how a uterus knows which sperm to ward off.”

However, Akin may be a quick learner, after all. He has since released an ad admitting, “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy.” How revelatory.

But now other Republican candidates (even Romney/Ryan) not only have to distance themselves from Akin’s comment (the National Republican Senatorial Committee publicly withdrew its support of Todd (to the tune of about $5 million), but the whole party now faces heightened scrutiny.

Although Akin may have simply misspoke, both his error and his actual views (unlike Romney, he does not believe that rape victims should be permitted to have abortions) have raised serious concerns that some members of the GOP have antiquated, insensitive, and even offensive views of women — the so-called Republican “War on Women.”

All this, and only a about a week left until the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla….