Friday, October 9, 1998Boozman: Women rarely get pregnant during rape
Last modified at 12:37 p.m. on Friday, October 9, 1998
From AP and Staff Reports
U.S. Senate candidate Fay Boozman says he was not expressing a scientific medical opinion when he said a woman who is raped is less likely to become pregnant -- only sharing his personal observations as a doctor.
Boozman made the comment while speaking recently to the Conway Kiwanis Club, Kiwanians have confirmed. He was responding to two questions from the audience. The first was what his stance is on abortion.
Boozman said he is against abortion, and that he thought most people believe late-term so-called "partial birth" abortions are a bad idea. As for abortions earlier in the term, he said, "That's a debate we're just going to have to have."
But when asked the second question, whether he believed abortion was justified in the case of rape or incest, Boozman said he did not.
"I believe life begins at conception," he said, calling abortion "a civil rights issue for the little ones."
However he went on to say that the adrenaline rush brought on by the anxiety of rape or incest would make it unlikely for a woman to conceive under those circumstances. Therefore, he said, there are only a small number of cases to consider when legislating abortion.
He also said he thought doctors are rarely in a position where they have to choose between saving the life of the mother or the child.
In addition, he said he would support a bill that banned all abortion except in the case of rape or incest. He said that would eliminate the majority of abortions performed.
Boozman, an eye surgeon from Rogers, is the Republican nominee. Democrat Blanche Lincoln said she was stunned by Boozman's remarks.
''It shows a real lack of sensitivity,'' Mrs. Lincoln said Thursday.
Boozman said that a rush of adrenalin triggered by fear causes hormonal changes that block a woman's ability to conceive during an attack, Boozman said in an interview. He denied a newspaper report that he had attributed the phenomenon to ''God's little protective shield.''
Boozman, an ophthalmologist and state senator running to succeed Democrat Dale Bumpers, said he would support an abortion ban that makes exceptions for rape and incest because such pregnancies rarely occur.
''I'm not saying there is a protection against a young lady being impregnated during a rape,'' Boozman said. ''I didn't say that. I said it was rare for that to happen.''
He said fear, anxiety and emotion during a violent attack make it unlikely that a female would conceive under the circumstances. He said his view is based on what he has come upon in the medical community.
''I find it amazing ... and inexcusable (that) as a physician, he would come out with a statement like that,'' Mrs. Lincoln said. She said the remark diminishes what women who are raped endure.
Abortion-rights supporters at the Democratic Party news conference said Boozman's remarks were ignorant, absurd and insensitive to rape victims.
National Democrats have tried to label Boozman an extremist for his abortion views as well as his support for abolishing the federal tax code. In the Arkansas Legislature, Boozman sponsored a partial-birth abortion ban that is not being enforced due to a federal court review.
In addition to Mrs. Lincoln, a former congresswoman who left Washington in 1996 to raise twins, Boozman faces Reform Party candidate Charley Heffley, a disabled bricklayer. Lincoln is leading pre-election polls.
Both major parties have targeted the seat as a key in their drives for control of the Senate next year.
Dr. Mike Cope, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, said Boozman's assertions were baseless.
''I don't know of any scientific basis to support the condition that adrenalin or a hormonal rush during the time of a rape would be preventative toward getting pregnant. There's no evidence to that at all,'' said Cope, who practices at the Woman's Clinic in Little Rock, an obstetrics group that does not perform abortions on demand.
Two other physicians, both with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, released statements expressing similar views that the state Democratic Party distributed at a news conference.
''I don't think that the stress associated with a rape would significantly affect one's chances of getting pregnant,'' Dr. Michael Miller of the UAMS Reproduction and Endocrinology Department said in a written statement. ''Although stress can interfere with ovulation, the stress associated with rape would not stop someone from getting pregnant.''
Dr. Rosie Seguin, an obstetrician gynecologist and an assistant professor at UAMS, said, ''There are absolutely no medical studies of which I am aware that support Mr. Boozman's contention.''
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