Texas Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, sponsor of the controversial and now defeated SB-5, is the latest lawmaker to raise more than a few eyebrows with her ridiculous comments about rape kits.
“In the emergency room, they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out,” Rep. Laubenberg was quoted in a recent Associated Press story.
Really? Or, in social-media slang, OMG! Her comments place her in select company with the likes of former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo), who thinks rape victims are less likely than others to get pregnant for biological reasons. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down,” he said, causing an uproar among Republicans and Democrats alike. Are lawmakers really this ignorant about legal practices and basic biology?
As a gynecologist affiliated for the past three decades with the nationally known Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, I am astounded at the absurd comments I hear over the airwaves over and over again. As a woman, I am appalled.
So, let me set the record straight for these and other elected officials who have a responsibility to be better informed so they can make better decisions and, hopefully, better legislation.
Rape kits are neither contraceptives nor tools for abortions, despite what Rep. Laubenberg mistakenly thinks. And they certainly do not “clean out a woman” down there!
As medical professionals and law-enforcement officials know, rape kits are evidence-collection tools. Their purpose is to preserve forensic samples of vaginal fluids, pubic hair and other microscopic specimens after sexual assaults — evidence that may contain DNA and identify the offenders. This evidence is collected as part of comprehensive medical examinations and therapeutic treatment provided to victims following sexual assaults.
Rape kits cannot prevent a pregnancy. Conception can occur if the sperm released during an assault swim into the cervix and get transported through the uterus into the fallopian tubes within minutes of the rape. If there is already an egg in the tube — or if one is released within 72 hours — conception might occur.
According to established medical sources, the fastest sperm can enter a fallopian tube in about a half-hour, meaning conception can occur within 30 minutes of sex or a sexual assault. Unfortunately, no rape victim is ever seen by medical professionals and given a forensic exam within 30 minutes. There are too many variables in the typical timeline.
Regarding Akin’s ill-advised remarks, a rape victim’s egg cannot differentiate between a rapist’s sperm and that of her lover. There is no biological mechanism for shutdown. Conception is as likely to occur during rape as it is at any other time a woman near ovulation is exposed to live sperm.
A rape-related conception is never “a blessed event.” No way, no how. No matter how strongly many feel about abortion, we all need to agree that this type of conception is tragic for both the woman and child.
Rep. Paul Ryan made headlines recently in the Huffington Post when he said, “We want a country where abortion isn’t even considered.” To that I say how about a world without rape and incest?
Dr. Amy Rosenman
UCLA Rape Treatment Center