Earlier this week Republican politician Todd Akin came under fire for claiming that pregnancy occurring as a result of rape is ‘really rare’. In arguing for a ban on abortion without exceptions for pregnancies conceived through rape he stated the following:
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare... If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”
Akin’s claims have rightly been attacked by various pro-choice groups and media outlets in the States for having no basis in scientific fact. Indeed, research from the Journal of American Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency, something to which many women themselves can attest. So huge was the outcry that even the President released a statement condemning the claim that “legitimate rape” is unlikely to end in pregnancy. President Obama used Akin’s disingenuous comments as an example of why "we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women."
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking isn’t limited to one rogue politician in the States spouting misinformation in order to push a ban on abortion. The idea that it is impossible or very unlikely for pregnancy to occur as a result of rape has been spread by a number of anti-abortion groups, including those based in the UK. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) state the following in their ‘Exploring Abortion’ school resource:
“Pregnancy as a result of rape is extremely rare. A woman is only fertile for 3-7 days during her cycle and the extreme physical and psychological trauma of being raped makes it difficult for fertilisation or implantation to occur.”
Earlier this year, SPUC were criticised for giving young people misleading information about pregnancy and rape but we are yet to see the same public outcry Todd Akin’s comments have attracted in the States.
Young people here and abroad deserve to hear factual information about pregnancy and abortion, and we should certainly be concerned when damaging myths like this are allowed into our classrooms. EFC are currently working on a report into abortion education in the UK which will pull together the types of misinformation being given to young people in schools. If you have information you'd like to feed into the project please do contact us firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for the launch of the report this autumn.