Over at The Weekly Standard, I was reading about how Marsha Blackburn is going to manage the floor debate on a bill that will restrict abortions after 20 weeks. And I was prepared to say something snarky about how Blackburn is perfect for the job, because nothing says "outreach to people who hate Republicans" like the woman who wants to go on vacation with Obama. But, instead, I stumbled across this part of the article:
"I think the reason that leadership asked me to handle the bill is the amount of pro-life work that I've done throughout my years in Congress," said Blackburn, a co-sponsor of the bill. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, has been unfairly attacked by Democrats and some journalists for the past two days for making a factual comment about the "incidence" of pregnancies that result from rape. Franks said on Friday that he supported Blackburn leading the floor debate.
Hmm, I thought, what is this "factual comment?" Which brought me to LifeNews, which is, as you can guess, an anti-abortion site, and this piece titled "Trent Franks Was Right: 95% of Women Who are Raped Don’t Become Pregnant," which says:
However, statistics posted by the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network show that 95% of women who are raped do not become pregnant. This statistic supports Frank’s statement that the incidence of pregnancy as the result of rape is very low and shows that the abortion lobby’s indignation is contrived.
And this is when I thought, "Holy shit. Scott DesJarlais is a doctor. He's conveniently 'anti-abortion' and he's more familiar with abortions than most Americans. When it comes to abortion, conservatives should call him and just ask him, 'Does this say what I hope it says?' before running with statistics."
Because, see, you're supposed to hear that amount — 95% — and think "Wow, almost nobody gets pregnant from rape." But 5% is huge. For two different reasons:
1. A lot of people get raped every year. According to RAINN (which, remember, is LifeNews's source for how often rape results in pregnancy), "Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted." Let's do the math. There are 60 minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, so that's 1440 minutes a day. If someone gets sexually assaulted every two minutes, that's 720 sexual assault victims a day. Let's just assume that only half of them are women. That's 360 women and if 5% of those rapes result in pregnancy, that's 18 pregnancies a day. That's over 100 pregnancies a week. That doesn't really seem "very low" when you see it spelled out that way.
2. If that 5% is correct, then it would seem to imply that women are slightly more likely to get pregnant from rape than from any one act of sexual intercourse. If you have sex once, your chances of getting pregnant are between 3-5% (You can find a lot of information about this on the Internet, but this site has an explanation that's easy to understand.) Isn't a scenario in which rape is more likely to get a woman pregnant than one-time sex actually kind of a big deal? It doesn't make pregnancies that result from rape seem less horrifying, but more. (I think the truth of the matter is that you're probably as likely to get pregnant from rape as you are any other time a penis is in your vagina.) Do anti-abortion folks really want America thinking about how traumatic it would be to discover that you're pregnant with your rapist's child and that Republicans want to force you to carry the child to term, whether or not you want to?
But again, here's a moment for DesJarlais! We know DesJarlais was smart enough to go to medical school and that he's had to endure the sting of going through one of these frequent Republican abortion-related gaffes. He's the perfect resource to bounce this stuff off of before you run with it and then have it blow up in your face.
Unlike Blackburn, DesJarlais is too tainted to be the Republican face of this issue, but that doesn't mean he can't be the smart person whispering in anti-abortion folks' ears.