January 14, 2013 — Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), who is an ob-gyn, on Thursday said that former Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) comment that a woman's body can prevent pregnancy from a "legitimate rape" was "partly right," the Marietta Daily Journal reports (Gillooly, Marietta Daily Journal, 1/11). Akin lost a Senate bid to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in November (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/7/12).
Speaking at a local Chamber of Commerce breakfast in his district, Gingrey said comments that Akin and failed Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock (R) made about rape were misinterpreted by the media and voters. Gingrey claimed that a woman might not ovulate if she is "tense and uptight," which he said shows there is some truth to Akin's statement (Marietta Daily Journal, 1/11).
Medical groups quickly denounced Gingrey's assertions about pregnancy and rape. In a statement, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said, "Rape, defined as any genital, oral or anal penetration without consent, is never legitimate." ACOG added, "[T]here is no scientific evidence that adrenaline, experienced in an acute stress situation, has an impact on ovulation" (Haberkorn, Politico, 1/11).
Details of Remarks
At the breakfast, Gingrey said that "what [Akin] meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that's pretty tough and might on some occasion say, 'Hey, I was raped.'" Gingrey continued, "That's what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don't find anything so horrible about that."
Gingrey went on to claim that Akin was "partly right" that a woman's body could block a pregnancy from "a legitimate rape." Noting to the audience that he has been an ob-gyn since 1975, Gingrey said, "It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, 'Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don't be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.'"
Gingrey added that if a woman had already ovulated before she was raped, she could become pregnant "because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart'" (Marietta Daily Journal, 1/11).
On Friday, Gingrey released a statement attempting to clarify his remarks. "I do not defend, nor do I stand by, the remarks made by Rep. Akin and Mr. Mourdock. In my attempt to provide context as to what I presumed they meant, my position was misconstrued," the statement said (Pierce, CQ Roll Call, 1/11).
EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock said Gingrey's comments are a "new low" for conservatives. "In one fell swoop, Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey said women regularly lie about being raped, that they're able to prevent a pregnancy simply by 'being tense and uptight,' and that Todd Akin had a point," she said (AP/USA Today, 1/11).
Barbara Collura -- president and CEO of Resolve, a national infertility association -- said telling women with infertility diagnoses to "'just relax' ... belittles the science and the causes of infertility and places the blame on the woman for [her] condition."
Gingrey's comments also drew criticism from fellow conservatives. GOP strategist Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, urged Republicans to avoid the topic. "If you're about to talk about rape as anything other than a brutal and horrible crime, stop," he said.
Attention to Gingrey's comments could add new urgency to a training program launched by Susan B. Anthony List to prevent antiabortion-rights candidates and lawmakers from making self-damaging remarks, according to Politico (Politico, 1/11).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership