Add Georgia representative Phil Gingrey to the ever-growing list of Republicans who can’t stop making offensive comments about rape.
According to the Marietta Daily Journal, Gingrey argued during a Cobb Chamber of Commerce breakfast that failed Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin was “partly right” when he claimed last year that women rarely become pregnant as the result of a “legitimate rape,” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
First, Gingrey attempted to defend Akin’s use of the term “legitimate rape”:
And in Missouri, Todd Akin … was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, ‘Look, in a legitimate rape situation’ — and what he 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.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that.
Then Gingrey — who is an OB-GYN, and currently serves as co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus — defended the offensive sentiment behind Akin’s gaffe, although he stopped short of fully endorsing the pseudo-science:
And I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. 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.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he? But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart.
According to… legitimate experts, Gingrey and Akin are simply wrong. As Dr. Sharon Phelan — a fellow at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico — told CNN after Akin’s original remarks, “chronic stress can decrease fertility” but “the acute stress [caused by rape] does not have the same impact.”
Even if they never abandon the junk science that motivates the “legitimate rape” caucus, one has to wonder when Republicans will see the political costs of publicly endorsing such theories. In 2012, Akin’s remarks doomed what was seen as an almost-guaranteed Republican victory over vulnerable Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. Similarly, Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock saw his Senate campaign collapse after arguing that a child born from rape is “God intended,” and Pennsylvania Republican Tom Smith lost his Senate race by 9 percent after comparing pregnancies caused by rape to “having a baby out of wedlock.”
Although Gingrey — who won re-election with 70 percent of the vote in his conservative district — is unlikely to face direct electoral consequences for his remarks, he has certainly made life harder for his more vulnerable colleagues.
In the 2012 presidential election, President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney among female voters by 12 percent — representing the largest gender gap in recorded history. Unless Republicans like Phil Gingrey stop running their mouths on issues like rape — or better yet, moderate their extremist policies — the GOP’s problem is going to get worse before it gets better.
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