Pregnancy and “Legitimate Rape” – What DOES this Mean?

Representative Todd Akin (Republican, Missouri) asserted on FOX ( that “..women’s bodies have ways…” to prevent pregnancy after rape; to “shut down” pregnancy after rape.  He asserts in the TV interview that   “…What I understand from Doctors…” is that after “legitimate rape”pregnancy is less likely.

While I have no idea how Mr. Akin came by these rather odd ideas, I do have several questions for him

Representative Akin:

1. Will you please define “legitimate rape” ? What, then, is illegitimate rape ?  Does it count as rape if the rapist is the girl’s father, uncle, brother, pastor ?  When is rape not rape, Mr. Akin ?  Is it if the woman doesn’t fight “too much” ?  Where do you get these terms “legitimate” versus (I suppose) “illegitimate” rape ?  These are certainly not clinical terms.  And I am pretty sure they are not legal terms.  So, sir, from where do you get this information ?

2. Which “Doctors” have you spoken to ?  What physiology do they subscribe to ?  Is it human physiology ? The kind that we live with day to day ?  The kind that is based on science ? Or is it supernatural physiology ? The kind that is based upon your religious beliefs ?

Mr. Akin, there is only one physiology.  It is the physiology informed by science.  It is the physiology that my Christian, Muslim, and Jewish colleagues find compatible with their religious beliefs. And it does not support the concept of a decreased risk of pregnancy in “legitimate” rape.

3. Mr. Akin, do you know history ?  Maybe you should read just a bit.  State-sponsored torturers have, for years, used rape as a means of control, as one “tool” in their kit of torture.  And one of the things they have said to their foot-soldiers is the very same thing you say: With rape there is a lower risk of pregnancy.  The very thing to say to impressionable young men who are given free rein to rape and kill.  Perhaps you ought to take a look at the history of the former Yugoslavia; at the counter-insurgency wars in Latin America.  Do you really, Mr Akin, wish to associate yourself with this type of people ?

Mr. Akin, I do not know you and, although I am sure you are a man who considers himself honorable, I wish you to know that you bring shame upon us.

Your comments put us in the same category as the religious extremists who think nothing of abusing women who have been already abused through rape.   Your comments minimize the horror that is rape.  I suggest you talk to women who have been raped; there are many and I am sure they would be pleased to educate you.

Your comments put us – Americans – in the same category as the rapist torturers in Latin America during the Pinochet years (Chile), the Videla years (Argentina).

Your comments put us in the same category as some religious zealots who are attempting to remake Turkey – under the guise of moderate Islam – into a state that demands women who are raped and become pregnant carry the pregnancy to term.

I don’t believe this is an isolated event Mr. Akin. Not-withstanding the condemnation of some Republicans, the ideology you espouse is the ideology of the Republican Party.  The State you would impose upon us is a theocratic state, every bit as repressive as the Iranian State.

Mr. Akin, I am not a woman, but I will stand with women to oppose you until I no longer breathe.

Remember the plaintiff cry of the organized church in Germany, it goes more or less like this: When they came for the gays, I wasn’t gay, so I didn’t say anything; when they came for the communists, I wasn’t a communist, so I didn’t say anything; when they came for the Jews, I wasn’t a Jew so I didn’t say anything.  And when they came for me, there wasn’t anyone left to say anything.

I have a dear friend, a woman who has given her life to the betterment of our country and world.  She wrote me as follows about you and your ideology:  “No birth control.  Rape is ok.  No roles for women except as men’s playthings.  Just the life I always wanted to have.”

Mr. Akin, you and your fellow Republicans should be ashamed.  You are not the party of life.  You are the party of death; you will destroy our country in your attempts to turn it into a religious state.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss any of this with you.

AJ Layon, MD

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About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He served as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) through 2018 and is presently an intensivist in Florida, struggling through the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
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