A Republican House candidate dismissed how often women become pregnant from rape and questioned whether pregnancies from rape are less common because “it’s not happening organically” in audio obtained by Axios Richmond.
Yesli Vega, a sheriff’s deputy and local elected official in Prince William County, Virginia, won a crowded Republican primary on June 21 to face Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s 7th District, a highly competitive battleground district in November.
“The left will say, ‘Well what about in cases of rape or incest?,'” Vega said at a Stafford County campaign event, according to Axios, where she discussed new state-level abortion restrictions in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday.
“I’m a law enforcement officer. I became a police officer in 2011. I’ve worked one case where as a result of a rape, the young woman became pregnant,” Vega said in the audio.
A person at the event then asked Vega: “I’ve actually heard that it’s harder for a woman to get pregnant if she’s been raped. Have you heard that?”
“Well, maybe because there’s so much going on in the body,” Vega responded. “I don’t know. I haven’t, you know, seen any studies. But if I’m processing what you’re saying, it wouldn’t surprise me. Because it’s not something that’s happening organically. You’re forcing it. The individual, the male, is doing it as quickly — it’s not like, you know — and so I can see why there is truth to that. It’s unfortunate.”
Vega later told Axios in a statement: “I’m a mother of two, I’m fully aware of how women get pregnant.”
Around 1% of abortions in the US are estimated to result from rape, but the rates of rape and sexual assault remain systematically underreported.
Already, eight states have banned nearly all abortions within their borders since the Supreme Court handed down its decision Friday in Dobbs v. Jackson that overturned the seminal 1973 precedent of Roe v. Wade and gave states free rein to restrict and ban abortion. Just one of them, Utah, makes exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
Six-week abortion bans in Texas and Ohio similarly carry no exceptions for rape or incest. And six more states have “trigger laws” that will ban abortion set to go into effect in the coming weeks, with only Idaho and Mississippi allowing rape victims who report their assaults to obtain abortions.
While Republicans are favored to win back control of the House in November, GOP candidates’ comments about abortions may attract extra scrutiny in suburban swing districts like the one Vega is running in.
In 2012, Missouri GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin was widely mocked and denounced for infamous comments in which he claimed that women seldom get pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” He lost in the November general election to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
The Virginia Democratic Party was quick to condemn Vega’s comments, with Chairwoman Susan Swecker calling them “deeply offensive, hateful, and an insult to all rape victims.”
“Either Vega doesn’t care about a woman who has been viciously assaulted or she failed every science class or both,” Swecker said. “It is beyond anyone who has a shred of caring or knowledge that someone could be so ignorant of the trauma and pain these victims endured.”
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