Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo. -- the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in the November election -- is under pressure from Republican leaders to exit the race after wide coverage of his comments in a TV interview that during rape, "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," so she rarely gets pregnant. Akin walked back from his remarks, but Dr. John C. Willke -- president of the nationwide Life Issues Institute, who practiced medicine in Cincinnati for 40 years -- has not.
Willke served 10 years as president of the National Right to Life Committee. He had a daily 5-minute radio program carried on almost 400 radio stations for 18 years until recently, the Life Issues Institute's Web site said.
In an interview with The New York Times Monday, Willke said for a woman being raped: "This is a traumatic thing -- she's, shall we say, she's uptight, she is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic."
The 87-year-old Willke told the Times "way under 1 percent" of rape victims become pregnant, not just because of female biology but because about half of rapists "do not deposit sperm in the vagina," because many rapists have "a preference for rectal intercourse over vaginal," experience "premature ejaculation, which is a major factor" or "some of these guys just plain aren't fertile."
Several experts said a 1996 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimated that 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy.
Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology of the University of North Carolina, said, "To suggest that there's some biological reason why women couldn't get pregnant during a rape is absurd."
Grimes, formerly of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said the contention that a rape victim's fallopian tubes tighten is "nonsense. Everything is working. The tube is very small anyway and sperm are very tiny -- they're excellent swimmers."
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said Willke wrote in a 1999 article: "To get and stay pregnant a woman's body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There's no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy."
Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, disagreed.
"Yeah, there are all sorts of hormones, including ones that cause your heart to beat fast when you're frightened," Greene told the Times. "I'm not aware of any data that says that reduces a woman's risk of getting pregnant."