Romney-Ryan and the 50,000 Rape Pregnancies Each Year

Talk about the equivalent of a Catholic Church sex abuse scandal within the Republican Party! Dr. Dean Kilpatrick, author of a key 1996 study on rape in the United States, tells the Los Angeles Times in interview today that “as many as 50,000 rape-related pregnancies” occur “each year.”


And this presumably doesn’t include the victims of incest that are made pregnant.

Akin to Pope Benedict and his bishops looking the other way concerning pedophile priests, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Republican Party’s leadership generally have a history of looking the other way and minimizing the pervasive problem of rape. Here’s the Daily Beast:

Romney said in 2007 he would be “delighted” to sign a bill banning all abortions, and Ryan supported legislation restricting abortions to victims of “forcible rape.”

Delighted. How could one ever be “delighted” to tell a victim of rape or incest that she cannot terminate her pregnancy? Could you ever use the word “delighted” in such a context?

There’s something perverse in Mitt Romney, that he could declare his pleasure in sticking it to violated women politically, holding them in place, and deciding for them, against their will, where their bodies must go.

The gleeful, smug, and male-driven politics of banning abortion utterly, in all circumstances, is sublimated rape after rape. It’s time to start saying so.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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11 Responses to Romney-Ryan and the 50,000 Rape Pregnancies Each Year

  1. Staffan says:

    I don’t think you have to worry about Romney. The attitude to abortion (death penalty and others) is highly heritable. It’s nothing any skilled politician would touch since those who are with him were already voting for him anyway. And given that these attitudes are resistant to influence he can’t win any new voters this way. He can only lose potential voters who disagree with him on this issue.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      If, by your comment, you mean to suggest that Romney won’t do anything substantial about the matter after he’s in office, I think you’re wrong. Two Supreme Court justices are in line to retire over the next few years. I want a Democratic Senate and President Obama deciding who the next two justices will be. My vote on one of them: Martha Nussbaum.

      Romney may opt to clam up on the matter of abortion through the next two months, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has used the lives of 50,000 women a year to advance his political ambitions at their expense. This is characteristic of a callous man who has zero principles and doesn’t take women seriously as peers. I was flabbergasted, frankly, that he did not pick a woman as his VP. But in thinking about his patriarchal religion, his anti-gay politics, and his ease with treating raped and abused females as political stepping stones, it makes sense. He thinks men should rule.


      • Staffan says:

        That’s not what I meant. I meant that this is a losing strategy for him. He can’t win over any voters on issues that are proven to be inheritable and resistant to social influence.

        I have to say it’s kind of sad to see how this blog is getting so angry and one-sided in recent times. To say that this is the equivalent of the Catholic sex abuse scandal is just in that vein. In reality that would mean that members of the GOP were using their party to commit rape while the rest kept quiet about it. It’s tabloid level.

        Where is that Enlighenment ideal of yours now? Who are you educating by hating Romney? Or is this the real you, behind the veneer of higher education? I hope not.

      • Santi Tafarella says:


        I’m not being hyperbolic. The link between the Catholic pedophile scandal and the Republican rape scandal is real. I defend that statement here:

        If you have a counter-argument to that post, I’d certainly be open to hearing it (perhaps in the thread there).

        –Santi : )

  2. David Yates says:

    Okay, let me begin by confessing that I was previously wrong concerning the rarity of pregnancy occurring as a result of rape. Apparently pregnancy results about as often from rape as from regular consensual sex — approximately 5% of the time. However, in my own defence, this ultimately mistaken information is out there. It turns out it’s old science, but it’s wrong and I admit it.
    Nevertheless, Santi, you’re misrepresenting the LA Times article you’ve cited above. My goodness, the title of the article is “Statistics on Rape and Pregnancy are Complicated” and its source stated that certain stats “mak(e) it possible that as many as 50,000 rape-related pregnancies occurred each year.” But the context makes it clear that this figure is highly speculative. Earlier in the article another source estimates as “few” as 3,200 pregnancies by rape per year, and the article begins by strongly implying that another estimate of 32,000 pregnancies by rape per year is highly unlikely since that would indicate there are around 640,000 instances of rape per year. Obviously then, your estimate of 50,000 pregnancies by rape would mean there are around 1 million instances of violent rape per year. Yes, there are a lot of rapes that go unreported, but there are a fair number of false reports, as well.

    But all that aside, given that people who are pro-life believe that a foetus is a human baby, and that an abortion thus constitutes the horrific murder of a baby, surely you can at least TRY to understand why one of them would say he would be “delighted” if given the opportunity to do away with the loathsome practice with the mere stroke of a pen. Indeed, it would be more surprising for such a person not to be so delighted.
    And as far as “Ryan supported legislation restricting abortions to victims of ‘forcible rape’,” again given the above (re: a foetus being a human baby), I would think you would’ve found that an admirable concession.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Kilpatrick is an expert on the subject, and what was complicated was made clear in the article: for a variety of reasons, Kilpatrick thinks the lowball estimates are inaccurate and that 50,000 women a year are made pregnant against their will. Read to the last paragraph of the article and you will find that to be the conclusion arrived at after the full discussion.

      As to “forcible rape,” I don’t see any “concession” on the part of Ryan. Instead, it’s a way of tightening the vice on women who claim rape but do not show the overt physical bruises and lacerations of an assault. In other words, Ryan means to control the bodies of women, and to treat their declarations with high suspicion, even as they endure trauma.

      As to the use of “delight” in the context you suggest, I agree that could modify the interpretation that Romney was being perverse. But the problem is that this is an issue of authoritarian patriarchy–of men telling traumatized women–somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 of them every year–that they must grin and bear, not just the rape, but the carrying of some male scum’s offspring to term. This is rape after rape. The forcing has to stop.

      And this is why I connect the Republican Party to the Catholic Church: both institutions are hyper-patriarchal and appear temperamentally incapable of seeing trauma if it interferes with their “missions.”

  3. David Yates says:

    Yes, Santi, as I already noted, what is “complicated” is made clear in the title of the article; that being any definite statistics on rape and pregnancy. That being said, continually citing the high end of the stats — especially for the purpose of attempting to score political points — is really no more legitimate than someone else insisting on using the lowest figure.
    Besides that, I read the entire article to the end and even included a direct quote of its final sentence. As did you, of course, but it’s frankly telling that in doing so you chose to elide the clarifying words “MAKING IT POSSIBLE that as many as 50,000 rape-related pregnancies occurred each year.” In other words, Dr. Kilpatrick — whose expertise I never called into question — allegedly asserted that this figure is “possible,” whereas you present as if it’s established fact. Simply put, it isn’t. Rather, it’s “complicated.”
    Speaking of speculative…
    How on earth do you get from “Ryan supported legislation restricting abortions to victims of ‘forcible rape’” to the conclusion that “Ryan means to control the bodies of women, and to treat their declarations with high suspicion, even as they endure trauma”?!? I hate to be this blunt, but when it comes to leaps of logic, Santi, you’re being Superman here.
    And as far as “(t)he forcing has to stop” is concerned, “stop”?!? Santi, when did it begin? For the past three decades there’s been a virtually unlimited abortion licence for women of all ages. And again, as I’ve already mentioned, given that us wild-eyed pro-life advocates regard the foetus as an innocent human baby, and that therefore each and every abortion constitutes the horrible, painful murder of such, I think it has to be said that we’ve shown remarkable restraint. (Santi, how far would you go to stop an axe-wielding homicidal maniac in a neonatal ward? To us, that’s pretty much what every abortion is.)
    Regarding the horror of carrying “some male scum’s offspring to term.” I readily admit that I cannot begin to imagine how abjectly horrendous it must be to suffer the indignity of being raped. But as absolutely dreadful as such a situation is, how is it in any way ameliorated by murdering the baby?
    (The truth is, I’ve had occasion to talk with quite a number of people who’ve procured an abortion, and several others who’ve made the choice not to. I can honestly testify that those who have have been haunted by it ever since. More than once I’ve had both men and women tell me about how they frequently find themselves stopping by laughter-filled playgrounds and regretfully wondering what that lost child would have looked like by that time, would have sounded like when they laughed or cried, what would have been their likes and dislikes, and of all the children’s drawings that will never be proudly presented on their refrigerator doors.
    On the other hand, I’ve never had somebody who has faced an unwanted pregnancy, but who chose not to have the abortion, tell me that they regretted their decision. In point of fact, many have said that not having the abortion but having the baby was the best decision they’d ever made.
    Honestly, Santi, who is being more caring and compassionate here? Those who are in effect saying, “Go ahead, have an abortion. It’s your right”? Or those who are saying, “No. You shouldn’t do this. It’s wrong and you’ll deeply regret it”?)

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      There’s a difference between an appeal to conscience–“Please don’t have an abortion”–and bringing the full force of law upon an individual: “You are forbidden to have an abortion.”

      In matters of rape and incest, that distinction is not trivial.

      As to Ryan, he means to make the terminating of rape pregnancies difficult to obtain–hence the “forced rape” distinction. A woman’s testimony is not sufficient. She has to have physical signs of trauma (bruises, etc.). Ryan means not to believe the woman; not to leave the decision to her; not to make her declaration of rape sufficient for obtaining an abortion.

      As for Dr. Kilpatrick, I defer to his expertise. His estimate is 50,000. If you have a counter-expert who takes issue with his estimate, I’m happy to weigh the two experts opinions and reconsider my acceptance of Kilpatrick’s number. Kilpatrick gave good reasons in the article for thinking the number is not trivial; that rape and incest pregnancy is not vanishingly rare. You’ve offered nothing that suggests the number is substantially less than 50,000 rape pregnancies a year. There are 300 million people in the United States. The population of fertile females at any given time is, perhaps, 70 million.

      Even if the number is, say, 30,000, that’s a lot. If it’s 20,000, that’s a lot. I doubt you’ll find any expert bringing the number below 20,000.

      Here’s something I found at ABC News:

      The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every two minutes, and on average there are 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of sexual assault every year.

      How many become pregnant? A 1996 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology [Dr. Kilpatrick’s study] reported that “among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.” This study said the rate of becoming pregnant after sexual assault is considerable, estimating that “the national rape-pregnancy rate is 5.0 percent per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45).”

      In response to Akin’s comments, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a statement on Monday: “Each year in the U.S., 10,000-15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest.”

      The statement said this is a fraction of the total number of rape-pregnancies, given that “an unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term.”
      A 2003 study using data from the United States National Violence Against Women survey found that the rate at which women get pregnant after an incident of sexual assault is more than double that of a single act of consensual sex. In this report, published in the journal Human Nature, the per-incident rape-pregnancy rate was 6.42 percent, and as high as 7.98 percent with statistical correction. Of women having consensual sex, the per-incident pregnancy rate was 3.1 percent.

      Dr. Lauren Streicher, an assistant professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, said she was not surprised by the data.
      “Women that have consensual sex are usually aware of where they are in a cycle…part of consensual sex is being able to say no. It makes sense,” she said.


      According to the Wikipedia article on rape, 1 out of every 5 women, over the course of their lifetimes, are victims of rape. That suggests to me that the annual rape pregnancy number must be substantial.


      • David Yates says:

        Okay, so this is as far as you would go to stop an axe-wielding homicidal maniac in a neonatal ward; you would appeal to his conscience and say, “Please don’t chop up any more babies”?
        Concerning most of the balance of your response here; it’s ground we’ve already covered. But one thing on which I would like to comment:
        “In response to Akin’s comments, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a statement on Monday: ‘Each year in the U.S., 10,000-15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest.’
        The statement said this is a fraction of the total number of rape-pregnancies, given that ‘an unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term’.”

        Hey, given that the total number of abortions in the U.S. sits at over 1.2 million per year, if we could reduce that figure to between 10,000 – 15,000 each year — although one is still one too many as far as I’m concerned — I would nevertheless regard that as cause for champagne-popping celebration.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Great way to straw man my position with a ridiculous analogy. My argument is that a raped woman or a victim of incest should not be forced by law to continue a pregnancy.

        You are on stronger ground to bring the law into the picture during a third trimester abortion that does not entail the life of the mother. First trimester abortions, in my view, should be left to the decision of women. Men shouldn’t be forcing women’s conscience or reproductive decisions by force of law (especially at the earliest stages of pregnancy).

        What’s got Romney-Ryan out on a limb on this is the extreme control of women that a ban on rape pregnancy represents and the obviously choiceless nature of rape.

        I think an excellent question for both Romney and Ryan is a simple one: “Are you prepared to allow individual women who claim rape or incest to receive abortions on their word alone if the result of that policy is 10,000 to 100,000 abortions in the United States every year? Or do you want more proof than the woman or teenage girl’s word in consultation with her doctor?”


  4. Pingback: Mitt Romney and Rosemary’s Baby: Why Rape Is To The Republican Party What Pedophilia Is To The Catholic Church | Prometheus Unbound

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