Another Day, Another Politician Who Doesn’t Understand Rape, Pregnancy, Or Abortion

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abortionWho likes broken records? I hope you do because I might sound like one here. I feel like we’ve had this conversation before, but House Representative Roscoe Bartlett from Maryland has added some new aspects to the misinformation surrounding pregnancy, rape, and abortion. That means we get to go through this mess again. Don’t blame me, blame clueless politicians who spout bogus “facts.”

First, we had Representative Todd Akin‘s “legitimate rape” comment that set the whole world on fire. To be fair, his numerous non-apologies and backtracking didn’t slow the burn at all. Then, there was Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith who compared getting pregnant out of wedlock to getting pregnant from rape. Just to be clear, the two things are not similar at all. And now, we have another politician trying to explain that there’s no need to worry about a rape exception clause because women almost never get pregnant from rape. Rep. Bartlett says it’s much more important for us to be concerned about sex-selective abortions.

While speaking at a town hall meeting this weekend, Rep. Bartlett had this to say about abortion,

“There are very few pregnancies as a result of rape, fortunately, and incest—compared to the usual abortion, what is the percentage of abortions for rape? It is tiny. It is a tiny, tiny percentage. … Most abortions, most abortions are for what purpose? They just don’t want to have a baby! The second reason for abortion is you’d like a boy and it’s a girl, or vice versa…”

Now, I’m going to try to do a little math here, so let’s all strap in. An estimated 32,000 pregnancies occur from rape each year. According to the Center for American Progress, approximately 9100 of those pregnancies are aborted. And thanks to the CDC, we know that 827,609 abortions were performed in 2007. As a percentage of that total, 9100 is about 1.1% of all abortions.

In that way, Congressman Bartlett is correct. It’s a small percentage of the overall abortions that occur in this country. But I think it’s important to note that to those 9100 rape victims who make that choice, it’s not small. Nothing about it is tiny or negligible or not worth mentioning. It is a difficult and emotional decision that deserves respect from those of us who cannot imagine what that woman is going through.

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