While being questioned about the Todd Akin controversy on Monday, pro-life Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith demonstrated that he's a bit confused about rape, too. When asked how he'd handle a daughter or granddaughter becoming pregnant due to rape, Smith said he can relate because he's "lived something similar to that" in his family, and the woman "chose life." However, he added, "Don't get me wrong, it wasn't rape." So what was it? "Having a baby out of wedlock." When a reporter pointed out that's nothing like rape, Smith said, "Put yourself in a father's position. Yes, it is similar."
Akin and Smith aren't the only lawmakers who need to brush up on their sex ed. Aside from the other pro-lifers who believe that women's bodies can magically block pregnancy during a rape, over the years many members of Congress have shared facts about sex and biology that have no basis in reality. We're just lucky that people who believe in the existence of a 900,000-square-foot Kansas abortion factory and the health benefits of breast implants have no ability to make laws that affect the rest of us.
Fact: Breast Implants Don't Make Women Healthier
Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn had some exciting news for Congress in 2005:
"I thought I would just share with you what science says today about silicone breast implants. If you have them, you're healthier than if you don't. That is what the ultimate science shows ... In fact, there's no science that shows that silicone breast implants are detrimental and, in fact, they make you healthier."
The F.D.A. did eventually lift its ban on silicone breast implants, but they can still rupture and cause scarring, pain, and infections. Coburn is an M.D., but he can't be expected to know everything about the dangers of jamming a foreign object into a patient's chest.
Fact: Abortion Doesn't Cause Breast Cancer
The World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have all concluded that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer, but Rick Santorum says otherwise. In February he told Fox News that Susan G. Komen for the Cure shouldn't give Planned Parenthood grants for breast cancer screenings because, “I don’t believe that breast cancer research is advanced by funding an organization where you’ve seen ties to cancer and abortion."
Fact: Prenatal Testing Doesn't Usually Lead to Abortion
About a week later, Santorum explained on Face the Nation that "Amniocentesis does, in fact, result more often than not in this country in abortion" — which is why he doesn't think insurers should be required to cover the procedure. According to PolitiFact, it's likely that the procedure results in parents choosing abortion in less than 5 percent of cases. Only about 10 percent of amniocentesis tests result in an abnormal diagnosis, and parents choose to end the pregnancy in about half of those cases.
Fact: There's No Scientific Consensus That Fetuses Feel Pain at Twenty Weeks
Several states have passed "fetal pain" laws that ban abortion at twenty weeks based on the premise that this is when a fetus can experience pain. During a failed attempt in July to pass such a law in the District of Columbia, Rep. Trent Franks said, "Medical science regarding the development of unborn babies and their capacities at various stages of growth has advanced dramatically, and incontrovertibly, it demonstrates that unborn children clearly do experience pain." There is actually no scientific consensus that this is true, and last year a study found that a fetus can't process pain until 35–37 weeks.
Fact: The HPV Vaccine Hasn't Been Found to Cause Retardation
Numerous studies have found that the HPV vaccine is safe, but are you going to trust the American Cancer Society or the mysterious woman who told Michele Bachmann that her daughter "suffered mental retardation" after the shot, then couldn't be located for follow-up questions?
Fact: The Morning After Pill and the Abortion Pill Aren't the Same Thing
During the primaries, both Bachmann and the Romney campaign opposed increasing access to the "morning-after abortion pill," which would be impossible, as it doesn't exist. Emergency contraception like Plan B prevents pregnancies, unlike RU-486, which terminates pregnancies. Some conservatives have argued that in rare cases the pills can prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs, which they consider abortion, but the New York Times recently reported that there's actually no scientific proof that the pills can block implantation.
Fact: You Can Get AIDS Through Heterosexual Sex
In January, Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield said on a radio program, “Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community ... It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall ... My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.” Though it's believed that HIV did originate in chimps, scientists say it's unlikely that it was transferred to humans via inter-species sex (unless Campfield has some inside information and he's holding out on us). As for his other theory, the CDC estimates that 12,860 people diagnosed with HIV in 2009 contracted the disease via heterosexual sex.
Fact: Planned Parenthood Isn't Operating an $8 Billion Abortionplex
While arguing on the Senate floor that Planned Parenthood should be defunded in April 2011, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona said, "If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." In reality abortions account for only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services. The confusion about what goes on at their clinics, which one in five women in this country have visited at some point, was illustrated most dramatically by Louisiana Representative John Fleming, who was taken in by an Onion story about Planned Parenthood's new $8 billion Abortionplex, complete with "coffee shops, bars, dozens of restaurants and retail outlets, a three-story nightclub, and a 10-screen multiplex theater."