There Are Still Politicians Who Think You Can’t Get Pregnant From Rape

Remember “shut that whole thing down?”

AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

During a hearing by the Idaho House of Representatives on a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a fetal heart monitor, Angela Dwyer, an employee at a crisis pregnancy center who testified in support of the bill, explained that in her experience, she had seen two rape victims choose not to abort—one kept the baby and the other chose adoption. The proposed legislation does not make an exception for victims of incest or rape.

Rep. Pete Nielsen responded, “Now, I’m of the understanding that in many cases of rape it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident.” He then added, “That may be true with incest a little bit.”

According to the Spokesman-Review, Nielsen stood by his remarks after the hearing. He said pregnancy “doesn’t happen as often as it does with consensual sex, because of the trauma involved.” According to Scientific American, women get pregnant from rape as frequently as they get pregnant from consensual sex.

When pressed on the matter by a reporter who asked him how he knew this, Nielsen replied, “That’s information that I’ve had through the years. Whether it’s totally accurate or not, I don’t know…I’ve read a lot of information…Being the father of two girls, I’ve explored this a lot.”

Nielson’s comments echoed those of former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who once memorably said on a television interview, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” Akin lost his Senate bid shortly thereafter in 2012 to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).



Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend