Please, Republicans, welcome this man back into the fold, and make him a mouthpiece for the party. We are happy to see you drive women out of your camp. Todd Akin thinks there’s still a legitimate concern about legitimate rape.
"When a woman claims to have been raped, the police determine if the evidence supports the legal definition of ‘rape,’" Akin writes. "Is it a legitimate claim of rape or an excuse to avoid an unwanted pregnancy? Are the police warranted to take action against a crime or not?"
"In short, the word ‘legitimate’ modifies the claim and not the action. There have been women who have lied about being raped, as Norma McCorvey did before the U.S. Supreme Court. The infamous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 was based on a lie."
"My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down," Akin adds in the book, "was directed to the impact of stress on fertilization. This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss. Doubt me? Google ‘stress and fertilization,’ and you will find a library of research on the subject."
Yes, sometimes women are bad and ignorant and dishonest, just like men. Sometimes people lie about being robbed in order to get the insurance money, too; that doesn’t mean we have such a cynical view of humanity that we dismiss all claims of theft as fraudulent.
I found his last challenge interesting, though. But don’t go to Google — that’s wide open and leads to a lot of garbage. I did his search on PubMed. It returns about 1500 peer reviewed papers on the subject, but the problem is that ‘stress’ has a rather specific meaning in biology, and it’s not about transient terror — it’s about relatively long-term metabolic changes. It’s also a big database, so it covers everything — plants, mice, insects, etc. So I narrowed the search to just humans, which gives me 136 results. That is not very impressive.
I browsed through them all. Some looked interesting:there’s stuff on the role of follicular antioxidants, how serotonergic modulation affects the stress response in zebrafish (they mention modulators developed for human research — they’re giving Prozac to fish larvae), issues in treating Jehovah’s Witnesses with in vitro fertilization, heat stress and DNA repair in sperm production, lots of stuff about oxidative stress, and surprising numbers of papers about the effects of stress on sperm in general. I guess sperm are just easier to work with. Maybe Akin should be arguing that stressed-out rapists are firing blanks? Nah, the research doesn’t support that, either.
I found one relevant paper in my search: Stress and anxiety do not result in pregnancy wastage, by Milad, Klock, Moses, and Chatterton, published in 1998. They were looking at the effects of the psychologically stressful process of IVF on fertility clinic patients. It has a small n of 40, so it’s not entirely conclusive, but the abstract concludes:
In conclusion, there is little association between psychological scores and physiological stress hormone concentrations. Also, it does not appear that high levels of anxiety and stress result in an adverse pregnancy outcome.
Again, these are studies of long term stress — we know there are effects of overwork, worry, lack of sleep, poor diet, and fear that cause metabolic changes in the body that can reduce the likelihood of reproduction. But that’s a far cry from suggesting that a single psychologically traumatic event can instantly shut down ovaries and prevent pregnancy, like a switch.
Also, a search on PubMed on the subject of stress and pregnancy turns up many more papers. It’s easy to conflate the two issues, and it’s certainly the case that metabolic changes occur and can affect pregnancy. But it’s also easy to send people off on a wild goose chase on a complex topic to confuse them.
So far, I haven’t found any peer-reviewed papers that support the Akin Hypothesis. I probably need to dig deeper into fringe journals.