Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) told an audience this week that former colleague Todd Akin was “partially right” when he claimed women resist pregnancy from “legitimate rape.” Gingrey has something else in common with Akin — both used to serve on the House Committee on Science.
The House Science Committee is no sanctuary from scientifically dubious, non-empirical, “truthy” policy positions. Republican committee members have in recent years created an array of controversies over reproduction, climate change, and evolution.
In Gingrey’s case, he sat on the Science Committee earlier in his career, and at one time was the ranking member on the Science Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. An OB/GYN, Gingrey is also the current chair of the GOP Doctor’s caucus. Here’s what he said Thursday about rape, pregnancy and Akin, according to the Marietta Daily Journal:
I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he?
For his part, Akin is no longer in Congress, having abandoned his seat to run for Senate against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) last year, but he held a seat on the Science Committee until the day he left. After holding a dominant lead in the polls, Akin’s campaign collapsed after he told a reporter that he opposed abortion for rape victims in part because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
As critics pointed out, a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concluded that rape resulted in about 32,000 pregnancies a year. Even Gingrey said Akin didn’t have it exactly right: “[T]he fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman’s body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak,” Gingrey explained.
Akin wasn’t the only sitting committee member to delve into pseudo-science last year. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) declared a holy war against anyone who doubted whether man and tyrannosaurus lived side by side.
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said at a banquet for a church sporting club. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
Broun, who added that “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old,” will remain on the science committee in the 113th Congress.
Nor is it just the rank and file members who have drawn attention with their pronouncements. The outgoing committee chair, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), has suggested that climate change is the product of a mass global conspiracy of scientists — the overwhelming majority of whom have concluded that burning fossil fuels cause warming — to obtain grant money. In 2011, he told National Journal he didn’t believe climate change was man-made because “I don’t think we can control what God controls.”
“I’m really more fearful of freezing,” Hall said. “And I don’t have any science to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us [climate scientists are] not basing it on real scientific facts.”
That puts him only slightly farther out from incoming chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chastised the “lap dog” media in 2009 for not questioning the scientific consensus on climate change enough.
Smith’s vice chairman this year, Rep. James Sensebrenner (R-WI), decried climate change theory as a “massive international scientific fraud” and evidence of what he called “scientific fascism.” Another climate skeptic on the committee this year, Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), suggested in a hearing that “dinosaur flatulence” might explain historic warming patterns.
This post has been updated.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.