As the House debates a bill to limit abortion, Republicans are reopening a subject that cost them dearly in 2012 and continues to present perils for the party’s attempt to appeal to women voters.
Even before the full House took up the bill Tuesday to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Republicans had a sharp reminder of how sensitive the issue can be when Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., appeared to say that rape rarely results in pregnancy.
“The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy [is] very low,” Franks said at a June 12 committee hearing on the bill. Franks later said he meant that third-trimester abortions of pregnancies caused by rape are rare.
ST. LOUIS — Don Hinkle stands out among the serious, conservative men of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Not that Hinkle isn't conservative or serious. He is both. But Hinkle prefers bow ties, which — along with his white, furry mustache and thatch of white hair — give him a sort of plump Mark Twain air.
Late last week, a church-state watchdog group in Washington filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service accusing Hinkle, who is also his organization's director of public policy, with violating federal tax law by intervening in two campaigns for public office.
Those were the Republican primary campaigns of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin for U.S. Senate, and Ed Martin for Missouri attorney general.
The 500,000-member Missouri Baptist Convention is the state arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, with about 16 million members.
In his column in the May edition of the Pathway, the state convention's newsjournal, Hinkle wrote that while he did not want an American theocracy, "when it comes to public policy, Southern Baptists must be motivated by love for our fellow citizens, believing that God's way is the best way."
For that reason, Hinkle continued, "I personally support candidates like U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican who wants to challenge Democrat Claire McCaskill for her U.S. Senate seat, and Republican Ed Martin, the St. Louis attorney who is running for state attorney general."
"From a scientific standpoint, what's legitimate and fair to say is that a woman who is raped has the same chances of getting pregnant as a woman who engaged in consensual intercourse during the same time in her menstrual cycle," said Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
One widely accepted study suggests a 5 percent pregnancy rate following rape, resulting in 32,000 pregnancies each year.
The report was from the Medical University of South Carolina and was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But placing an exact figure on post-rape pregnancy is problematic, primarily because rape is thought to be underreported. Another factor is the availability of over-the-counter emergency contraception, which can prevent fertilization when taken after intercourse.
One study from the journal Human Nature in 2003 suggests pregnancy rates are higher after a rape when compared with consensual sex because of the inconsistency of birth control use.