Idaho Legislator Pushes Abortion Law With Very Familiar Rape Myth

Idaho Legislator Pushes Abortion Law With Very Familiar Rape Myth
Source: AP
Source: AP

An Idaho lawmaker, supporting a bill to provide all abortion seekers in the state with a list of free ultrasound locations, dropped a familiar conservative anecdote about rape while discussing the legislation.

"Now, I'm of the understanding that in many cases of rape it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident," state Rep. Pete Nielsen (R-Mountain Home) said, according to the Spokesman-Review. "That may be true with incest a little bit."

Nielsen's remarks were for Angela Dwyer, operator of the pro-life Stanton Healthcare clinic in Boise, who told legislators her facility had counseled pregnant female victims of rape who kept the baby.

After the hearing, he told the Spokesman-Review pregnancy "doesn't happen as often as it does with consensual sex, because of the trauma involved ... That's information that I've had through the years. Whether it's totally accurate or not, I don't know."

The legislator repeatedly cited "information" as the source of his statement.

"I read a lot of information," Nielsen continued. "I have read it several times. ... Being a father of five girls, I've explored this a lot."

Nielsen's view on rape and pregnancy is uncannily similar to former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin. Akin, who lost his bid for Senate in 2012 to Sen. Claire McCaskill after saying "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down" during a discussion on abortion.

The remark destroyed Akin's political career, in large part because Akin seemed to be casting doubt on the trustworthiness of rape victims to push abortion restrictions.

According to Scientific American, there is actually no difference in conception rates between consensual sex and rape. Victims' advocacy group RAINN estimates 64,080 rapes occurred over the 2004-2005 year.

"This means that of those 64,080 US rapes in 2004-2005, minus the 15% of rapes that are of children under the age of 12 which gets us to 54,468 rapes of almost all reproductively-aged women, somewhere between 1,689 (3.1%) to 2,723 (5%) pregnancies from rape could have occurred in that year alone," Kate Clancy wrote for Scientific American in 2012. "... psychosocial stress is associated with fetal loss in some samples. That is not the same thing as saying that stress causes fetal loss."

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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