It\’s not politic but is it true?

\”First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,\” Mr Akin told a local television channel. \”If it\’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

\”But let\’s assume that maybe that didn\’t work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.\”


The Senatorial
candidate who said that has of course walked into a firestorm. And is busilly retracting his remarks.

But leave aside all of that., leave aside even the implications. What I\’d like to know is is it actually true?

Is a stranger rape (what I assume he means by \”legitimate\”) less likely to result in pregnancy than any other sexual episode?

I\’m sure it doesn\’t lead to a zero possibility: but I can imagine that it could have a lower probability (for there are things that we know increase the likelihood of pregnancy, none of which are likely in a case of rape).

But does anyone know?

29 comments on “It\’s not politic but is it true?

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8765248

    If the risk of pregnancy from one rape is 5% that is in fact substantially higher than the risk of pregnancy from a single act of consensual intercourse. I’ve come across other studies and speculation that confirm this – that you are actually more likely to get pregnant from rape than voluntary sex.

  2. “OBJECTIVE: We attempted to determine the national rape-related pregnancy rate and provide descriptive characteristics of pregnancies that result from rape. STUDY DESIGN: A national probability sample of 4008 adult American women took part in a 3-year longitudinal survey that assessed the prevalence and incidence of rape and related physical and mental health outcomes. RESULTS: The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. Among 34 cases of rape-related pregnancy, the majority occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often related perpetrator. Only 11.7% of these victims received immediate medical attention after the assault, and 47.1% received no medical attention related to the rape. A total 32.4% of these victims did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester; 32.2% opted to keep the infant whereas 50% underwent abortion and 5.9% placed the infant for adoption; an additional 11.8% had spontaneous abortion. CONCLUSIONS: Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization.”

    http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378%2896%2970141-2/abstract

  3. He’s making the old argument that you shouldn’t murder the baby just because its father is a criminal.

    How scarce such babies are I have no idea: the bible mentions one, I believe.

  4. Not factual as expressed in that there is no anti-rape mechanism to prevent pregnancy.

    Sperm is usually deposited in the upper part of the vagina and must travel across the uterus to fertilise an ovum in the ovarian tube.

    Possible explanations, if indeed pregnancy is infrequent as a result of rape:

    – the victim is not ovulating

    – not all rapists ejaculate inside the vagina or at all

    – the woman is unlikely to be aroused and so there will be no vaginal fluid to help the sperm swim from vagina, across uterus into ovarian tube.

    – because of dryness and lack of cooperation, full penetration may be difficult and sperm may be deposited in the lower vagina so, this plus lack of fluid, means the sperm have further to go through the spermicidal acidity of the vagina and die before they can.

    – the physical and emotional shock can cause the changes necessary in the uterine wall for pregnancy to stop – perhaps inducing bleeding and de facto a period; or physical violence may cause uterine contractions and bleeding.

  5. The population in the study above seems very wide: ages 12 to 45. We know that a woman’s fertility declines over that period. The study may be more useful (and the 5% pregnancy possibility more credible) if narrower age bands were used. I’m guessing that the population is skewed towards the younger age ranges resulting in a higher probability of pregnancy.

  6. Drew (#2) doesn’t answer the question as to whether the probability is greater or lower than consensual unprotected sex.

    Although I suspect the question as posed is unanswerable from available data, since you would have to separate out the congressman’s rape categories.

  7. We should beware of slanted reporting in these statistics. An allegation of rape may be more likely if the victim fears pregnancy, i.e. if the rape occured at the time of the month when she is fertile, or indeed after she has discovered she is pregnant.

  8. A quick Google suggests 3-5% of pregnancy from consensual sex; 11% chance of it being a possible day in the woman’s cycle, and a 25-50% chance (depending on which guestimate you read) of pregnancy if the day’s right.

    That looks lower than the 5% in Drew’s study, but as Rahul (#6) says, it would depend on the age profile. Drew’s study looks at age 12-45, but the odds of pregnancy when you’re 12-25 are roughly 2.5 times what they are when you’re 40-45.

  9. There’s no ethical way of doing a controlled study to answer this kind of question. So we are left with rather dodgy epidemiology and rather anecdotal controls as the least worst available source of data. As to whether the intercourse was rape or not, for the purposes of an epidemiological investigation you more or less have to take the woman’s word for it. The conviction rate is so low (particularly for the most common, known-partner variant, the “being dragged into the bushes by a stranger” variant is exceedingly rare) you’d be unlikely to get a large enough sample. So biased reporting of whether it was actually rape, no doubt biased participation confounded by pregnancy too – I doubt the statistics are much use.

    Which leaves us with speculation. And my speculation is that it’s quite intuitive that the risk of pregnancy from rape is higher than from consensual sex because for the vast majority of consensual acts contraception is used, while one imagines the rate of use of contraception with rape is not zero but much lower than for consensual sex.

  10. The stats about 5% only takes into account reported rapes. As we know the real number is a lot higher. This would make the percentage of pregnancies from rape a lot lower.

  11. Do these figures include statutory rape? If so, then a very high proportion of rapes within that category will result in pregnancies. They’re less likely to be single incident & the reason the offence comes to notice is mostly the pregnancy.
    Enough to slew all the figures?

  12. Couple of things. If it was true, it would still not justify a policy that prohibited abortion (it would mismatch likelihood and an absolute ban). I cN think of justifications for usch a ban, though i don’t support one, just syaing this isn’t one of them. And it introduces an absolutely horrible sort of test, mediaeval really, that if you do get pregnant, you weren’t raped, er, legitimately. Horrible man, horrible argument.

  13. Meant to add, it has the strangest whiff of the playground about it – the kind of thing 11 year old boys say to each other, combining ignorance and prurience and certainty.

    And apologies for typos. On ipad.

  14. Akin should crawl back under his rock.

    This is a likely source for his remarks. The statistical analysis is not impressive; some of the numbers are wrong, and, importantly, it’s quite possible that rapists will tend to chose victims (in cases of stranger rape) who are much more likely than average to become pregnant. There is research that suggests that rape is more likely to result in pregnancy than is consensual sex.

  15. There was an old man name of Akin
    Who said rape didn’t cause procreatin’
    But his theory was poor
    For it seems to cause more
    I do hope the piss he was takin’

  16. “In an average population, the miscarriage rate is about 15%. In this case, we have incredible emotional trauma. Her body is upset. Even if she conceives, the miscarriage rate will be higher than in a more normal pregnancy. If 20% of raped women miscarry, the figure drops to 450 (or 740). Finally, factor in what is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that’s psychic trauma. Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle. To get and stay pregnant a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, and implantation.”

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2012/08/20/todd_akin_rape_comments.html

  17. Perhaps it might have something to do with this study.

    A woman’s body may be unconsciously selective about sperm, allowing some men’s to progress to pregnancy but killing off the chances of less suitable matches, an Australian researcher said Wednesday.

    University of Adelaide professor Sarah Robertson said her research suggested that sperm contains “signaling molecules” that activate immunity changes in a woman so her body accepts it.

    But some apparently healthy sperm failed to activate these changes, leading to the suggestion that the female system can be “choosy” about its biological mate, she said.

  18. @ Matthew L
    Genghis Khan was the greatest conqueror of his age so probable a large number of his sexual conquests were consensual. One of the stories about Hercules were that after providing great service to a king he was given the king’s 50 daughters, one of which refused him but the other 49 produced 50 children (including one pair of twins).
    We just do not have *reliable* data on this.

  19. Is this a search for facts here?
    Can’t say I’ve personal position, re abortion, one way or the other. I’m not likely to get pregnant. But I can appreciate the anti-abortion lobby hold a perfectly genuine point of view. Trouble is they’re confronted by the:
    “Akin should crawl back under his rock.” PaulB style of liberal so it really doesn’t matter what they say, it’s never going to be acceptable, even if true.

  20. Unfortunately there might have been a real world experiment that might shed some light on this question.

    The tragic case of Eizabeth fritzl.

    She was raped daily, from the age of 12 and bore 7 children and had 1 miscarriage thru her her 26 year imprisonment.

    Thus she spans the different age groups of women fertility rates.

    A healthy couple should conceive within a year of planning a child, 3 acts a week for 52 weeks.

    Then there is a more problematic question of incest fertility rates. Google throws up a number of possibilities but its not much lower than normal human relationships seems to be the answer (I stand to be corrected, its a tough one) Birth defects seem to be the issue rather than a lower infertility score.

    So 8 pregnancies over a 25 year period with daily sexual acts, and it seems intercourse being used as a weapon of torture in the main.

    Against my own experience of 25 years of marriage from our ages of 22 and 18 and having 6 pregnancies, 5 to term, 3 planned, and a lot of calculation in between to avoid the other 3 (we are Catholics afterall)

    I would say as an educated guess the poor Elizabeth was succeeding in not having more children than she did. Which suggests that it is harder to get pregnant if you are raped.

    On a purely evolutionary issue, rape does not come across to me as a good breeding strategy.

    its a real brain burner this one, Mother nature keeps her secrets close to her chest.

  21. bloke in spain: You’ve got this the wrong way round. Abortion is a difficult issue in which different opinions should be treated with respect.
    Akin belongs under a rock not because of his views on the morality of abortion, but because he spouted offensive lies in order to minimize the consequences.

  22. Sean

    Akin hasn’t defined what he means by “legitimate rape”, and without knowing exactly what he means by “legitimate rape”, it’s impossible to answer Tim’s question. However, if it is the same as the “forcible rape” that he and Paul Ryan used in their attempt to limit Federal funding for post-rape abortion, it is an extremely narrow definition and excludes, for example, incest if the woman is over 18, and statutory rape. So I’m not sure Elisabeth Fritzl’s case would meet his criteria – although the incarceration might be a consideration, since she couldn’t escape.

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/19/712251/how-todd-akin-and-paul-ryan-partnered-to-redefine-rape/

    My understanding is that Elisabeth Fritzl was first raped at 11, but was not raped DAILY until her incarceration at 18. I imagine that the health problems she experienced during her incarceration because of poor food , lack of sunlight and exercise, pregnancy and injury from rape and unattended birth – plus of course the mental trauma of the imprisonment and abuse – would have progressively reduced her fertility over the period of her imprisonment. Also, the fertility level for a woman raped daily over a period of 25 years would I think be different from the fertility of a number of women aged 12-45 raped once or twice.

  23. Paul, I think there’s been quite enough offensive* lies on behalf of the pro-choice side to balance out.

    You’ve got here an issue where the two sides are talking past each other. The antis aren’t going to move far from an abortion is murder line. The pros, from woman’s choice trumps all.

    *If one wishes to be offended. Personally, I find lies irritating but often very instructive. Rarely offensive.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.