“some sort of contraceptive effect from a rape … is not an unwarranted conclusion”

That gem is from Pastor Robert Fleischmann, national director for the Christian Life Resources, and it came to Malcolm, courtesy of James King at the Village Voice.

One would be well warned by Fleischmann’s throat-clearing:

In a media hungry for controversy Congressman Todd Akin appeared as a tidy morsel of thoughtlessness.  And what began as an appetizer has grown into a full course meal of presumed misinformation.

Got that, folks, legitimate rape, dropped from the mouth of a congressman who was been spouting in the House Chamber these dozen years, is a tidy morsel of thoughtlessness. Whatever that means.

We have been unkind to Rep. Akin:

In an issue as emotionally charged as rape, any qualification is dangerous and open to misunderstanding if not intentional misinterpretation.

And, yes, Pastor Fleischmann argues there is such a thing as “illegitimate rape”. His re-definition is instructive:

The most conservative studies have suggested false rape reports account for 4%-8% of all reported rapes.  So, 4%-8% of rape reports could rightfully be called “illegitimate rapes.”

Does that make any kind of sense at all? When a heinous crime has not been committed, but merely alleged or imputed, it’s still a crime, but an “illegitimate” one. Not, of course, that “bearing false witness” is not a crime. It’s just “illegitimate”. Or something. Stack up the negatives to arrive at a positive.

The sheer woolliness of thought here is staggering. Try this:

I have yet to see a study that demonstrates some sort of contraceptive effect from a rape.  I do believe, however, it is not an unwarranted conclusion.

According to eMedicineHealth, a woman who is a typical user of combination hormonal pills has an 8% chance of getting pregnant.  If her partner is a typical user of the male condom she has a 15% chance of getting pregnant.  If she has never delivered a child and is a typical user of a cervical cap she has a 16% chance of getting pregnant.  If she and her partner were typical in practicing the withdrawal method, she would have a 27% chance of getting pregnant.  And finally, if neither she or her partner used any form of birth control, she would have an 85% chance of getting pregnant.

Eugene F. Diamond, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Past Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, wrote in the “To the Editor” section of the April 11, 1985 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine:

Pregnancy is rare after a single act of forcible rape. In a prospective study of 4000 rapes in Minnesota, there were no pregnancies. In a retrospective study covering nine years in Chicago, there were no pregnancies. In a prospective study of 117 rapes there were no pregnancies among either the 17 victims who received DES or the 100 who did not.

Statistically speaking, it appears something happens in a rape, either with the victim or with the perpetrator, that reduces the incidence of pregnancy.  Fertility specialists continually debate the role of emotions, unresolved conflicts and trauma play in female infertility.  As you review the literature you will see there are strong convictions on both sides.

Fleischmann is remarkably cavalier in his use and abuse of statistics. He happily ignores the discontinuity between what eMedicineHealth says about life-time use of contraception and the (to be hoped) one-off event of violent rape. eMedicineHealth  gives “the real-life failure rate of birth control methods” — and then adds a further, much lower, figure for “consistently using birth control methods as directed”.

Fleischmann has already discounted:

the familiar mantra that a pregnancy occurs in 5% of rape cases.

That, he says, is :

a 16-year-old statistic lifted from a study of 4,008 women.

Fleischmann instead trusts a 27-year-old “statistic” asserted by a Catholic doctor, who was editor-in-chief of the Linacre Journal, a publication of the Catholic Medical Association [Upholding the principles of the Catholic Faith in the Science and Practice of Medicine], devoted to Theology, Clinical Medicine, Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine — and specifically in that order. So, no preconceived bias there, then. We can assess the value of Dr Diamond ‘s Science and Practice of Medicine elsewhere, when he waxed enthusiastic about “miracles”:

… we accept all possible outcomes and complications of a disease process but rather that we want to add divine intervention to the therapeutic armamentarium.

Wishful thinking always sounds better when dressed up in polysyllabics.

Fleischmann is so chilling because he is:

1. Political

Without a doubt Akin could have said what he said much differently and with more sensitivity. Also, in the interest of winning the favor of the general public he must also accept the fact that most people today can’t get past the thought of the rape event. His advocacy for protecting the unborn child conceived from a rape is morally correct but at this time is not politically prudent.


2. A prime exponent of the Pollyanna Principle:

I would counsel Akin to focus on that larger picture and leave the emotionally distorting event of pregnancy from a rape for a later day when society is better educated. It is a prudent move which does not desert the plight of the unborn child resulting from a rape but rather is taking the steps for progress where you can get it for a greater and more lasting solution in the future.

The enemies of Representative Akin would consider his defeat in the run for the U.S. Senate dessert. I am more hopeful that the proper education that can come out of all this might better result in tougher laws against rapists, care and support for the women who have been raped, and protection for the most defenseless of all – the unborn child. Now wouldn’t that be sweet!

Aw, shucks! It’s all good news, folks!

Especially when the lunatic Right finds itself in a pit … and keeps digging.


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Filed under health, Law, politics, Religious division, United States, US Elections, US politics

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