When Missouri Representative Todd Akin said he believed that rape-related pregnancy was "really rare," he unleashed outrage, and he quickly backtracked and claimed he "misspoke."
Of course, he's not the first politician to get the science wrong, as some have pointed out. But since then, research has come to light revealing exactly how far from the facts Akin's statement was. Popular Science cites several studies which paint an entirely different picture of the results of rape:
*A 1996 study found that 5 percent of rapes in females of reproductive age resulted in pregnancy — that adds up to about 32,101 rape-related pregnancies per year in the United States.
Melisa Holmes, an ob-gyn in South Carolina, led the study through the National Crime Victims Center.
*In 2003, Jonathan and Tiffani Gottschall pegged the number at 6.4 percent, based on survey results from 8,000 women around the country.
"The available data give us no reason to think that conception from rape is rare, or even that it is less rare than conception from consensual intercourse. If anything, the data suggest that things go the other way around," Jonathan Gottschall told Popular Science.
"We think it might be because rapists tend to target young women at peak fertility," Gottschall says.
Gordon Gallup, an evolutionary psychologist at SUNY-Albany who wrote about rape-related pregnancy in The Oxford Handbook of Sexual Conflict in Humans, agrees.
"Rapists don't pick victims at random," Gallup told Popular Science. "Unbeknownst to them, rapists clearly target victims based on their likelihood of conception. They tend to preferentially target young, post-pubescent females that are in their reproductive prime."
And, from an evolutionary standpoint, rapes that result in pregnancy puts an incredible burden on the mothers.
"The problem with rape if conception occurs, is that it precludes making an informed mate choice, which is the principal means by which females maximize their fitness," Gallup told Popular Science. "And it means that the female is not going to be subject to protection and provisioning by the child's father. Women are left holding the bag, so to speak."
The bottom line: Akin was so wrong that it's no wonder that many Republicans think he should step down.
Photo: Conception; credit: iStockPhoto