Todd Akin, Missouri's Republican candidate for Senate recently told a St. Louis radio station that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy. It is Akin's belief that, in his own words, "If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down."
Yes, women who are raped can get pregnant
And drawing a distinction between "legitimate rape" is loathsome.
One of the many problems with this statement is that it is, quite simply, wrong. It is as wrong as the medieval belief that bad smells (miasmas) cause illness. As wrong as the Renaissance medical system of humors. It is not even debatably wrong, like the beliefs of climate change deniers. It is simply, 100 percent incorrect.
Like the "dunking stool" used in the Salem witch trials, pregnancy is - for some people - the indication that a woman was not "really" raped. For example, if a woman was wearing a short skirt or was a little bit tipsy, that - in their opinion - means that it was not a "legitimate rape." How can you tell? Because she got pregnant.
I know it doesn't make any sense, but that is what some people (mostly men) believe. This circular logic lets them place blame for the pregnancy on the rape victim, as well as letting the rapist off the hook.
It is difficult to tease out the threads that inform this (wrong) belief. And frankly, there is no point in doing so. The belief is wrong, as wrong as wrong could be. Why try and justify it? It has no validity. And this is not a matter of belief, it is a matter of science. Not vague theoretical science, either. We know with 100 percent certainty how a human female becomes pregnant, and the circumstances of the insemination have no bearing upon the situation.
The basics of human biology are this: when a sperm cell encounters an egg, the woman becomes pregnant. How the sperm got there has no bearing on whether or not the pregnancy occurs. This is fortunate, for those women who are going in for artificial insemination. But it is very unfortunate for women who happen to be fertile at the time when they are raped.
The worst thing about Akin's statement is that he has made a career of spreading this misinformation to the public. Akin holds a Master of Divinity, and he is involved in a crusade to perpetuate this misinformation on school children. At least some of whom would therefore grow up to believe that "she got pregnant, so obviously I didn't rape her."