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Anti-Choice Doctors Still Claiming Pregnancy Not a Result of Rape

Robin Marty

Dr. Willke may have been writing decades ago, but other doctors are seeking out current date to support their perception that rape victims don't get pregnant.

Although the medical community writ large has confirmed that Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks about rape and pregnancy have no basis in fact, that isn’t stopping a far more radical anti-choice fringe from supporting Akin–or his “science.”

Now, a Creighton University medical professor is releasing his own data claiming that Akin, Willke, and the rest are right, and rape victims are much less likely to get pregnant than those who have consensual sex. And the factual cherry-picking is amazing.

According to Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, rape victims are less likely to get pregnant based on his calculation of the number of abortions performed in Nebraska on women who say they got pregnant as a result of a sexual assault based on the number of rapes reported in the state.

“Presuming that all of the forcible rapes have been reported, this is a pregnancy rate of 1.6%, which is considerably lower than one would expect for a random act of intercourse, the pregnancy rate of which should range from 2% to 4%,” said Hilgers. “This concurs with recent statements that the pregnancy rate from forcible rape and sexual assault is lower than it is in normal fertility. Furthermore, of those rape victims, 98.4% of them will not be helped in any fashion by abortion; and, for those who are aborted, they are then potentially confronted with a double dose of psychological trauma.”

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Our studies of human ovulation by ultrasound (which number over 3,000 separate cycles) and also our study of the natural fertility system show that ovulation can be delayed by stressful events, and that this actually is quite common. Thus, the idea that a woman’s body can “shut down” ovulation and prevent pregnancy is also a true statement. Of course, this is not under the woman’s control. It is an effect of the complex mechanisms of human ovulation and its interaction with stress,” said Hilgers.

There are a number of reasons why this data means absolutely nothing: Hilgers uses an unclear data point for “forcible” rape, implying a narrow definition of what constitutes rape favored by anti-choicers who want to change the definition of rape. He assumes every woman who sought an abortion as a result of a pregnancy resulting from rape reported the pregnancy as such, even though rape is well-known to be widely under-reported by women who don’t want to suffer the shame and stigma often heaped upon victims. He would also have to assume that every woman who became pregnant because of rape chose abortion, and also that all of the women who did chose abortion recieved one in Nebraska, a state in which access to abortion care is highly limited. Many women travel outside their home state when in need of abortion care.

For these and other reasons, Hilgers evidence is another example of right-wing mythology masquerading as evidence.

Then again, Dr. Hilgers also believes infertility should be treated “God’s Way,” so his work is already a bit suspect.

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