The theory behind Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) assertion earlier this week that women who are victims of “legitimate” rape would not get pregnant appears to be based on 1972 research that cites experiments done in Nazi concentration camps, a Missouri newspaper reported on Monday.
During an interview with KTVI over the weekend, Akin had claimed that women were not likely to get pregnant because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
This reasoning, based on 1972 article by a University of Minnesota Medical School assistant professor, has been used for decades by anti-abortion activists to argue that no exceptions to abortion bans are necessary, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In the article titled “The Indications for Induced Abortion: A Physician’s Perspective,” Dr. Fred Mecklenburg concluded that it “is extremely rare” for a rape to result in pregnancy.
Mecklenburg cited a number of factors for his theory, including that not all rapes resulted in “completed act of intercourse” and that it was “improbable” that a rape would occur within “the 1-2 days of the month in which the woman would be fertile.”
But it was Mecklenburg’s presumption that a traumatized rape victim “will not ovulate even if she is ‘scheduled’ to” that appeared to be the basis of Akin’s recent remarks.
To support his conclusion, Mecklenburg cited studies that were allegedly done at extermination camps in Nazi Germany.
Nazis reportedly tested the theory “by selecting women who were about to ovulate and sending them to the gas chambers, only to bring them back after their realistic mock-killing, to see what the effect this had on their ovulatory patterns. An extremely high percentage of these women did not ovulate,” the article said.
Mecklenburg also speculated that “frequent masturbation” was likely to make rapists infertile.
More recent research, however, has debunked the ideas Mecklenburg’s article.
“From a scientific standpoint, what’s legitimate and fair to say is that a woman who is raped has the same chances of getting pregnant as a woman who engaged in consensual intercourse during the same time in her menstrual cycle,” American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Dr. Barbara Levy told the Post-Dispatch.
A 1992 study by the Medical University of South Carolina determined that 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.” Many experts believe that number could be significantly higher because an estimated 54 percent of rapes are not reported.