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Research And Law: Can A Woman’s Body Shut Down A Rape-Related Pregnancy?
Since the United States Supreme Court released Roe v. Wade in 1973, the leading case that legalized abortion nationwide, US law struggled to clarify abortion law. The question of whether the law should include exceptions for pregnancies related to rape is important to this fight.
Arguing that there is no need for a rape exception, anti-abortion groups have argued that a woman’s body has ways of stopping this type of pregnancy. If this were true, then of course the need for an exception would disappear. And that would tend to support a ban on abortion, as opposed to limiting its availability.
On the other hand, if a woman had no internal defenses against a rape-related pregnancy, the need for the exception might be seen as relevant, if not necessary, to a well-drafted law. And maybe it would garner national support. Both parties therefore need clarity in order to engage in a constructive national dialogue on abortion legislation.
Clarity comes from understanding a well-respected science. And so, the question arises: what scientific research exists to determine whether a woman’s body can stop a rape-related pregnancy?
Fourteen years ago, in 1998, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study that sampled 4,008 adult American women to determine the national rate of rape-related pregnancies and provide descriptive characteristics of pregnancies resulting from rape. . The study involved a 3-year survey that assessed the prevalence and incidence of rape and related physical and mental health outcomes.
The results of the study showed some significant findings. She concluded that the national rate of rape-related pregnancy is 5.0% per rape among victims of childbearing age (12-45). And perhaps most shocking of all, it revealed that an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year among adult women. The study authors concluded that rape-related pregnancies occur with “significant frequency”. They stressed the need for greater attention and efforts to prevent and identify unwanted pregnancies resulting from sexual victimization.
But the 1998 study is not isolated. It benefits from the companionship of observations published more recently in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. In November 2000, the Journal noted that pregnancy after rape is a serious public health problem. They estimated that the 333,000 sexual assaults and rapes reported in 1998, along with many more unreported, “were responsible for 25,000 pregnancies”.
Extrapolating from data available to them at the time, the authors speculated that up to 22,000 rape-related pregnancies could be averted if all raped women received prompt medical services and, if they were not already protected against pregnancy, were receiving emergency contraceptive treatment.
Then, in 2003, researchers at St. Lawrence University published “Are Per-Incident Rape-Pregnancy Rates Higher Than Per-Incident Consensual Pregnancy Rates?” Jonathan A. Gottschall and Tiffani A. Gottschall posed this question: “Is a given case of rape more likely to result in pregnancy than a given case of consensual sex?” Analyzing the data they collected, they concluded that incidental rape and pregnancy rates far exceed incidental consensual pregnancy rates, even before birth control use is considered and adjusted.
And so, given the data that already exists, it is amazing to find individuals who blindly buy into the idea that a woman’s body can stop a rape-related pregnancy. In response to a national discussion on this topic that emerged in August 2012, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the leading national group of physicians providing health care to women, noted that each year in the United States , 10,000 to 15,000 abortions occur in women whose pregnancies are the result of reported rape or incest. They conceded that an unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term. But for now, they observed, “There is absolutely no truth to the claim that ‘if this is legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting it all down.’ A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (i.e. pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts fundamental biological truths.”
Ultimately, the research cited above destroys the notion that a woman’s body can suppress a rape-related pregnancy. And this establishes that those who advance such a position are either mistaken or spreading lies in the face of science and biology.
Now, it’s one thing for an ordinary citizen to be unaware of this information. Breeding issues are tricky subjects, and the way we learn about “birds and bees” isn’t exactly easy education. But for those who would lead us in matters of government or national politics, there is a greater burden and greater responsibility in knowing the truth. It is critically important that Americans elect leaders to craft legislation that avoids extreme, unfounded, and downright irrational views. We need a law in America that is not bent by witchcraft, junk science, misconceptions and misapplications of moral law, or adherence to vapid party platforms. This kind of law is a threat to good government.
It’s clear. The research destroys the idea that a woman’s body can terminate a pregnancy caused by rape. And this establishes that those who advance such a position are either mistaken or spreading lies in the face of science and biology.
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