On June 11, Slate editor Emily Bazelon whipped out the Nazi card against Congressman Trent Franks. The media site, which is an affiliate of the Washington Post, unsurprisingly went after the Republican legislator for his remarks about rape on Wednesday concerning a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Of course, liberals tried to tie these remarks to Todd Akin, who made scientifically inaccurate statements about sexual assault and pregnancy last year. Yet, even some notables on the left are saying Franks is no Akin.
Let’s begin with what Franks said yesterday that Bazelon took umbrage with: “[T]he incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” Well, according to the RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, that’s accurate.
In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.
Most people would consider five percent "very low." It's also very low as a percentage of abortions, not just pregnancies.
Here’s where the Nazi smear comes in. Bazelon claimed that the Franks remarks
…originate with Nazi experiments on women in concentration camps. Here’s what I wrote about this last November.
“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 [sic], 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."
So, Franks, and any other pro-lifer, is inspired by the Nazis? Liberal Jonathan Chait, who's not a stranger to slinging rough attacks, said outright yesterday that Franks is no Akin because:
[he] didn't say the "rate" of pregnancy from rape is low. He said the "incidence" is low. He didn't say it's hard to get pregnant when you're raped. He said rape-induced pregnancy doesn't happen very often.
Is that claim, which is different than Akin's, true? Well, there areabout 30,000 pregnancies from rape a year. I'd say that's a lot. I suppose that if you're comparing it to the total number of abortions, a figure that's 20 to 30 times larger, you could argue it isn't so many. From Franks's starting point, in which which abortion is murder, the United States allows massive murder of human beings on an unthinkable scale, next to which 30,000 annual pregnancies looms small. If (like me) you don't share his view of abortion, that 30,000 pregnancies looms large.
In any case, Franks was not relying on pseudoscientific nuttery about the lady-parts shutting down pregnancy in the case of rape. He was saying something different.
Similarly, left-leaning libertarian writer Dave Weigel, also of Slate, reiterated what Chait mentioned in his post.
Not every comment about rape and abortion is a "Todd Akin" comment. In 2012 Todd Akin said something uniquely stupid, with roots in anti-abortion psuedoscience—that a "legitimate," violent rape, being so stressful to the woman, was unlikely to cause pregnancy. That wasn't what Richard Mourdock said in a debate for Indiana's U.S. Senate seat; he said a child resulting from a rape was part of God's design. It also wasn't what Franks said here. He referred to "the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy," not the question of whether rape can cause pregnancy.
So, while liberals may say that Republicans are disrespecting women, and victims of sexual assault, with this bill, the same thing can be said of liberals using Frank’s remark to run interference on developments concerning Obama’s scandals, and his crumbling second term.