Study Estimates Rape Caused 65,000 Pregnancies In States With Abortion Bans
A study published Wednesday estimates that there have been nearly 65,000 rape-related pregnancies across the 14 states that banned abortion in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s crumbling 18 months ago.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of American Medicine, was led by Dr. Samuel Dickman, a Montana abortion provider and plaintiff in several lawsuits challenging the state’s abortion restrictions. Dickman’s team said the results of their study indicated that the four rape exceptions in place across those 14 states do not provide sufficient access to abortion.
“In this cross-sectional study, thousands of girls and women in states that banned abortion experienced rape-related pregnancy, but few (if any) obtained in-state abortions legally, suggesting that rape exceptions fail to provide reasonable access to abortion for survivors,” the study concluded.
Rape exceptions to total abortion bans are in place in Idaho, North Dakota, Indiana and West Virginia.
The study’s estimates “have limitations,” its authors cautioned, because “such highly stigmatized experiences are difficult to measure accurately in surveys.”
To arrive at a figure of 64,565 pregnancies caused by rape between July 1, 2022, and the start of this year, the researchers first used multiple government sources to estimate the number of vaginal rapes that occurred, landing at approximately 520,000. They then calculated that around 12.5% of those rapes resulted in pregnancy.
No more than 10 legal abortions during this time frame were reported in any of the 14 states with abortion bans.
“These are hard numbers to come up with — there’s no kind of systematic collection at the level of health care providers to be able to answer this question of what’s the pregnancy rate among people who have been victims of a completed vaginal rape,” Dickman said in an interview with NPR on Wednesday. “This is kind of the best we could do.”
But still, the study concluded, even this rough estimate suggests that “persons who have been raped and become pregnant cannot access legal abortions in their home state, even in states with rape exceptions.”
Lawmakers who support strict abortion bans have historically demonstrated little understanding of how commonly rape leads to unplanned pregnancy.
Back in 2012, former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) infamously claimed in a 2012 interview that “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” That claim has zero scientific basis.
Four years later, former Idaho state Republican Rep. Pete Nielsen (R) came to the same baffling conclusion, declaring during a House committee meeting: “I’m of the understanding that in many cases of rape, it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident.”
Republicans continue to beat that drum. HuffPost reported in 2022, shortly after the fall of Roe v. Wade, that many of them were still insisting that pregnancy from rape was rare.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.