SACRAMENTO -- A leader of a California Republican group may have inadvertently revived the controversial subject of rape and pregnancy.
Before arriving at the state GOP's spring convention here, Celeste Greig told this newspaper that pregnancies by rape are rare "because it's an act of violence, because the body is traumatized."
Greig is the president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, the state's oldest and largest GOP volunteer organization. Ronald Reagan once called it "the conscience of the Republican Party."
Ironically, Greig was in the midst of criticizing former Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin for saying that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." It was a remark that many believe led not only to his defeat in November but also helped tarnish the Republican brand around the country.
"That was an insensitive remark," Greig said. "I'm sure he regretted it. He should have come back and apologized."
Greig, however, went on to say: "Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it's an act of violence, because the body is traumatized. I don't know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don't know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act."
The issue drew a quick rebuke from Democrats, who said Greig's comments were no different than Akin's.
"If a woman is near-ovulating or ovulating, and sperm comes in direct contact, she gets pregnant -- it doesn't matter what the nature of the act was," said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. "It's just outrageous, beyond absurd. It's insulting. It's the same line of thinking of 'If we just dress differently, or behave differently, we won't be raped.' They're basically saying 'while we're being raped, if we hate it enough we won't get pregnant.'"
Most research on rape and pregnancy has shown roughly the same rates of pregnancy as pregnancies resulting from consensual sex. But one 2003 study from St. Lawrence University showed the rate at which women get pregnant after rape to be more than double that of a single act of consensual sex. The study used data from the United States National Violence Against Women survey.
With consensual sex, the authors theorized, women have the option of declining sex or using contraception when there is a high likelihood of getting pregnant because of their ovulation cycle.
The per-incident rape-pregnancy rate was 6.42 percent, according to the report, which was published in the journal Human Nature. Of women having consensual sex, the per-incident pregnancy rate was 3.1 percent.
Tom Del Beccaro, outgoing chairman of the California Republican Party, declined to discuss the issue Friday.
"It is not what we're going to discuss this weekend," he said.