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Jun 13 2013

Is it a Godwin if it’s accurate?

Yet another Republican has once again argued that the trauma of rape makes women infertile: Trent Franks of Arizona claimed “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are [sic] very low.” He’s just one more in a long line of thugs spouting pseudoscientific lies.

“In the aftermath of Akin’s statement, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on a 1972 essay by an obstetrician named Fred Mecklenburg, who cited a Nazi experiment in which women were told they were on their way to die in the gas chambers—and then were allowed to live, so that doctors could check whether they would still ovulate. Since few did, Mecklenburg claimed that women exposed to the emotional trauma of rape wouldn’t be able to become pregnant, either. (He also argued that rapists are infertile because they masturbate a lot.) The essay was published in a book financed by A.U.L.”

A.U.L. is Americans United for Life, a pro-life advocacy group with increasing clout because of its success in drafting model state laws to restrict abortion. The line from the Nazis to Mecklenberg to Akin and Frank runs through Jack Wilke, a doctor who is the former head of the National Right to Life Committee. He said, "What is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that’s physical trauma." And he stuck with this when the Los Angeles Times called to ask him about Akin last year. When I asked A.U.L. head Charmaine Yoest about the claim that rape rarely results in pregnancy, she was smarter and called it “a distraction.” Abortion opponents sure do keep bringing it up, though.

Right, the “argument from hideously unethical evil Nazi experiment” is just what I’d expect Republicans to do.

43 comments

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  1. 1
    tigtog

    I wonder what the body fat levels were of those women subjects of that hideously unethical evil Nazi experiment, since that happens to have a bloody huge effect on ovulation actually? And did they bother to have a control group of women who they didn’t terrorise in that particular way whose ovulation they also checked? I’m betting not.

  2. 2
    Blobulon

    Even if this were true, that pregnancy from rape rarely happened, it is still no argument to withhold abortion from those ‘few’ who do become pregnant from rape.

  3. 3
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    (fromthe article :) { Fred Mecklenburg} .. also argued that rapists are infertile because they masturbate a lot.)

  4. 4
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    ^ What? That’s gotta be wrong surely!

    (sorry, clicked submit too soon.)

  5. 5
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    I wonder if the Republicans like T. Akin are aware of their sources for their offensive claims?

    If not then why not and, if so, how can they not care and realise that the Nazi methodology was to say the least highly dubious and automatically makes their claims tainted beyond saving?

    I strongly agree with #1 tigtog and #2 Blobulon as well.

  6. 6
    Inaji

    Jesus. For doctors, they don’t seem to know much about ovulation. I suppose I shouldn’t be terribly surprised, after all, who cares how a woman’s body works, when you can just make up shit out of whole cloth in order to justify brutal oppression to satisfy your sense of smug self righteousness?

  7. 7
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    PZ:
    He made an attempt to clarify his statements: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/06/trent-franks-rape-pregnancy-walk-back.php?m=1

    Needless to say, it didn’t work.
    (I’d leave a quote, but Think Progress won’t let me copy/paste)

  8. 8
    marko

    Blobulon, was the insinuation not that if a victim fell pregnant they couldn’t have really been raped, if they could become pregnant, they obviously enjoyed it?
    StevoR, I’m fairly sure PZ has posted about the masturbation -fertility link before, and it seems that regular masturbation would improve your fertility, the body has more than adequate capacity for producing the little blighters, and the fresh ones tend to be a bit more lively.

  9. 9
    bad Jim

    Somewhere I read that the argument (that if a woman becomes pregnant it wasn’t rape) goes back to the Middle Ages. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Nazis tried to find "scientific" proof for folk beliefs.

  10. 10
    bad Jim

    In fact, Wikipedia has an Pregnancy from Rape article:

    In Europe, from medieval times well into the 1700s a man could use a woman’s pregnancy as a legal defense to “prove” that he could not have raped her, since her pregnancy was thought to mean that she had enjoyed the sex and therefore consented to it.

  11. 11
    tigtog

    bad jim, you might be remembering this column by Vanessa Heggie in the Guardian, talking about a legal position that pregnancy disproved a claim of rape recorded in 1290, and that law dating back to even older concepts that conception was not possible without orgasm, and of course, if she orgasmed then she enjoyed/wanted the sex.

  12. 12
    bad Jim

    tigtog, that sounds about right.

  13. 13
    andrewpang

    Hey PZ, here’s a permalink to the slate.com article you quoted: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/06/12/trent_franks_abortion_myth_and_the_nazis_no_exception_for_pregnancy_from.html

    Please correct your link if you can,.

  14. 14
    lochaber

    wtf… stuff like this makes me reconsider my stance that violence is only acceptable in defense of self/others.

    …How can people be this horrible, and, like, still appear to be people?

  15. 15
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I wonder what the body fat levels were of those women subjects of that hideously unethical evil Nazi experiment, since that happens to have a bloody huge effect on ovulation actually?

    This. There’s a scene in Fanny Fenelon’s authobographic book about thw Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra where one morning somebody’s cello (?) case had been stuffed with used sanitary pads. She writes that they were looking at it half disgusted, half jealous because most of them were so desperatly malnourished that they’d stopped mentruating long ago.

    Oh, and, yeah, what about those 24 hours when ovulation has already occured and the egg is still fertile? Even if trauma stopped ovulation (I guess those women in Ohio must have enjoyed their 10 years as sex slaves and so must have Elisabeth Fritzl) it wouldn’t do anything about the ovulation that already happened…

  16. 16
    =8)-DX

    Is it a Godwin if it’s accurate?

    It’s not a Godwin if you are discussing Nazis, what they beleived or did, or talking about Hitler. And therefore its not a Godwin to inform someone that the idea the research they are quoting was the result of an unethical and badly performed Nazi experiment. But then the fact that it was a bad experiment proving nothing by an untrustworthy source is the important point, not that it was Nazis per se.

    StevoR, I’m fairly sure PZ has posted about the masturbation -fertility link before, and it seems that regular masturbation would improve your fertility.

    I think the idea is that after multiple ejaculations in short succession, men ejaculate smaller loads with lower spermcounts, or even have dry (non-ejaculating) orgasms. So the rapist would have to have been masturbating constantly, for maybe several hours directly previous to the rape, and even then his victim would have to get “lucky” because of residual sperm in the urethra. =( So no, it’s not really a good argument from any side of the question.

  17. 17
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    [TW]

    They seemed to have missed the rather obvious fact that severe trauma could only ever stop you ovulating after the traumatic event. If the victim is ovulating just before or at the time of the rape then it hardly makes any difference, does it?

    Or do Republicans now believe that women stop ovulating pre-emptively when their women’s intuition warns them of impending danger?

  18. 18
    kevinalexander

    Jesus knows that you’re going to enjoy it even if you say you won’t and ovulates you ahead of time. Also, Jesus doesn’t lie, unlike lying slutz who got that black eye by bumping into the car door in their rush to get some of that burning hunk of man that they have been teasing all night.

  19. 19
    tigtog

    Ugh. That one needed a Poe warning, kevinalexander.

  20. 20
    kevinalexander

    I thought if I went for a high enough level of ugh then a Poe warning wouldn’t be necessary but then you may be right, there really are guys who think that way.

  21. 21
    Chie Satonaka

    Women in concentration camps weren’t just under stress during those few moments in the gas chamber. They were under constant stress over a long period of time. They were also being starved.

  22. 22
    Chie Satonaka

    Also, see Ariel Castro, who tortured and raped three women for ten years and impregnated them multiple times.

    When you are literally citing Nazi “science” to support your viewpoint and you don’t stop and take a step back to re-evaluate how you got there, you are missing a conscience.

  23. 23
    w00dview

    how can they not care and realise that the Nazi methodology was to say the least highly dubious and automatically makes their claims tainted beyond saving?

    Um, yeah, well Hitler was a vegetarian so LIBERALS WERE THE REAL NAZIS!111!!!

    /wingnut

    I would not be surprised if that was the response to your inquiry, StevoR.

  24. 24
    Deen

    Never mind that a lot of rape doesn’t actually involve physical trauma, but sedation by drugs and alcohol.

  25. 25
    Nepenthe

    @Deen

    Whatchyoo talkin’ bout? It’s only rape if a stranger jumps out of the bushes with a knife.

  26. 26
    Greg Robinson

    Bad Jim nails it; this is much older than Nazi experiments, and even more inseparable from rape culture than it appears on the surface. In the middle ages, pregnancy was believed to require a female orgasm, and therefore pregnancy was taken as proof of female pleasure, and therefore exculpatory proof against rape allegations.

    So, Republicans are literally citing medieval false beliefs about women used to justify rape, as an argument against permitting women to make their own medical decisions.

  27. 27
    vaiyt

    Medieval people would appear positively progressive next to these jerkwads.

  28. 28
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    And with this kind of shit burbling away in Republican brains, we just had a transvaginal ultrasound requirement law passed here in Wisconsin, as well as hospital admittance requirements for any doctor who performs abortions. I don’t even have reproductive sex and this still terrifies the shit out of me personally because rape can happen at any time.

    Fucking assholes.

  29. 29
    No One

    I really do not like these people. At all.

  30. 30
    carlie

    In the middle ages, pregnancy was believed to require a female orgasm, and therefore pregnancy was taken as proof of female pleasure

    Huh, I always thought nobody thought that women had orgasms. Is that another of those “people used to know that until asshole fundamentalists erased the knowledge” kinds of things?

  31. 31
    wcorvi

    If women don’t become pregnant from rape, then what’s the problem allowing abortions to rape victims who become pregnant? It would placate liberals while not offending conservatives. Best of both worlds.
    .
    I love it when someone argues ‘we don’t need that law because it wouldn’t affect anyone’ and simultaneously arguing ‘millions will be hurt by this law.’

  32. 32
    mikeyb

    And we have the GOP spokesperson Rush too, spouting a new set of nonsense on his ignorance of female anatomy yet again. It could be a post all on its own.

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/06/11/rush-limbaugh-gets-schooled-on-abortion-pill-my/194428

  33. 33
    Ingdigo Jump

    This argument is a tacit admission of “I don’t give a damn about anyone hurt unless they’re a big voting block”

  34. 34
    Lynna, OM

    Just to be clear, a House panel approved the bill yesterday, Wednesday, that would ban almost all abortions after a fetus reaches the age of 20 weeks.

    As for Trent Franks walking back his earlier comments, his main point in the walk-back was that victims of rape rarely abort a pregnancy after six months.

    More info on the bill below:

    The bill, named the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on a party-line 20-12 vote and could get a vote in the full House as early as next week.

    House Republican leaders, concentrating on budgetary and jobs bills and investigating administration scandals, have largely avoided contentious social issues such as abortion, but anti-abortion conservatives have been spurred by the recent conviction of a Philadelphia abortion provider, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, for killing three babies born alive at his clinic.

    “The terrifying facts uncovered during the course of the trial … and successive reports of similar atrocities committed across the country, remind us how an atmosphere of insensitivity can lead to horrific brutality,” said committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

    Bill sponsor Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and others argued that there is evidence – a contention Democrats say is unproven – that fetuses can feel pain after five months, justifying a ban on later abortions…

  35. 35
    Lynna, OM

    Trent Franks identifies himself as a Southern Baptist.

    Here is the SB resolution on abortion, from their official website. This resolution, adopted in the 1980s still stands:
    http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/amResolution.asp?ID=21

    WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in New Orleans in June 1982, clearly stated its opposition to abortion and called upon Southern Baptists to work for appropriate legislation and/or constitutional amendment which will prohibit abortions except to save the physical life of the mother; and

    WHEREAS, In addition to legislative remedies for this national sin, it is incumbent that we encourage the woman who is considering abortion to think seriously about the grave significance of such action by presenting information to her about the unborn child in her womb, who is a living individual human being, and encourage her to consider alternatives to abortion; and

    WHEREAS, Christlike love requires that such alternatives be made available.

    Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, June 12-14, 1984, encourage all of its institutions, cooperating churches, and members to work diligently to provide counseling, housing, and adoption placement services for unwed mothers with the specific intent of bringing them into a relationship with Jesus Christ and/or a sense of Christian responsibility; and

    Be it further RESOLVED, That we deplore the practice of performing abortions, as well as dispensing to minors without parental consent or even notification, contraceptive medications which have potentially dangerous side effects, and deplore also the use of tax funds for such activities; and

    Be it further RESOLVED, That we call upon all Southern Baptists to renew their commitment to support and work for legislation and/or constitutional amendment which will prohibit abortion except to save the physical life of the mother; and

    Be it further RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptists to inquire whether or not their physicians perform abortions on demand or give referrals for abortions, and that we commend those of the medical profession who abstain from performing abortions or making abortion referrals; and

    Be it finally RESOLVED, That we urge our agencies and institutions to provide leadership for our cooperating churches and members, by preparing literature to take a clear and strong stand against abortion, and to inform and motivate our members to action to eliminate abortion on demand.

  36. 36
    Lynna, OM

    Republicans in Wisconsin are being equally flea-brained:

    The measure requires women to undergo either a transabdominal or the more-invasive transvaginal ultrasound without regard to medical necessity. The ultrasound would not be required to be interpreted by a physician but by any “qualified person.” That person would have to provide a description of the ultrasound to the woman, including its size, location, number of fetuses and any visible organs or body parts….

    Link.

  37. 37
    crocodoc

    To be fair, Trent Franks did not repeat the raped-women-don’t-get-pregnant nonsense. He said that in the case of this beyond-20th-week-bill pregnancies that were a result of rape are rare. Which is probably true. I’d assume that rape victims who get an abortion decide to take that step long before the 6th month.

    That being said, I don’t agree that because something supposedly rare it should not be considered by a law. Or to any other of his views. But we should judge him by what he actually said, not by something we make up.

  38. 38
    Barefoot Bree

    wcorvi @31:

    If women don’t become pregnant from rape, then what’s the problem allowing abortions to rape victims who become pregnant? It would placate liberals while not offending conservatives. Best of both worlds.
    .
    I love it when someone argues ‘we don’t need that law because it wouldn’t affect anyone’ and simultaneously arguing ‘millions will be hurt by this law.’

    1) Because it goes hand-in-hand with laws preventing abortion except in cases of rape and incest. If this misguided idea also makes it into the law somehow (and I wouldn’t put it past some legislatures to try it), then there would be no abortions allowed except for proven incest.

    2) Because it’s wrong, wrong, wrong – and I, for one, do not want my elected officials to be making laws based on such bases. (I don’t even want to have such elected officials representing me at all, but sometimes I don’t have any choice about that.)

    3) It’s just another way to chip away at abortion rights, which I stand firmly against. (The chipping away, that is.)

  39. 39
    Kierra

    @34 and 37

    Given that there are at least 4 weeks per month, 20 weeks (halfway through a 40 wk pregnancy) actually works out to less than 5 months. Of course, you can’t find out whether you are pregnant before 4 wks, so you are actually looking at less than 4 months to obtain the abortion.

  40. 40
    Nathair

    But even if it were all true, even if women were less likely to become pregnant by rape than by consensual sex, so exactly what? Does it somehow become morally OK to legally force thousands of women to carry rape babies to term since they are relatively fewer?

    Abortion on demand, period. Anything else is indefensible.

  41. 41
    Blobulon

    Marko @ comment 8:
    “Blobulon, was the insinuation not that if a victim fell pregnant they couldn’t have really been raped, if they could become pregnant, they obviously enjoyed it?”

    An unwanted orgasm can occur during rape simply through physical stimulation. Much like someone can be made to laugh from unwanted tickling.
    I understand your point though. They are simply wanting to spin the issue into ‘the slut wanted it’ to negate the fact of rape. No consent, but unwanted orgasm? Not rape to these people.
    The vile mental gymnastics they have to perform to make abortion less attainable is astounding.

  42. 42
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @tigtog, #1:

    I love you. That was exactly my first thought.

  43. 43
    roro80

    Nazis proved it through science, so it must be true?

    Oh, that’s just a perfect argument for these assholes.

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