His argument came during a debate over "a proposal to eliminate a state abortion fund for poor women," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
In 1980, lawyer James Leon Holmes wrote, in a letter arguing for a constitutional ban on abortion, "Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami."
He later apologized for his comment and was successfully nominated to a federal judgeship by George W. Bush in 2004, the inside-Washington controversy over his remarks notwithstanding. Today he serves as the chief judge of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
In Pennsylvania, Republican state Rep. Stephen Freind asserted in 1988 that women rarely get pregnant from rape, because violent attacks cause temporary infertility. Reported The Philadelphia Daily News:
The odds that a woman who is raped will get pregnant are "one in millions and millions and millions," said state Rep. Stephen Freind, R-Delaware County, the Legislature's leading abortion foe.
The reason, Freind said, is that the traumatic experience of rape causes a woman to "secrete a certain secretion" that tends to kill sperm.
(A hat tip to BuzzFeed's great Anna North for digging up the Holmes and Freind examples earlier this year.)
Efforts to outlaw abortion and legislatively narrow the definition of rape to only the most violent assaults go hand in hand, because abortion opponents believe that rape exceptions to abortion bans will be exploited by women to obtain abortions in an environment in which it is otherwise outlawed. Rape, therefore, needs to be defined differently -- to be defined more narrowly and to be defined, most critically, as something that does not result in pregnancy.
You could see these conceptual gymnastics at work on the ground in Idaho earlier this year. Reported The Huffington Post:
The sponsor of an Idaho mandatory ultrasound bill, state Sen. Chuck Winder, made some highly controversial comments Monday during his closing arguments, suggesting women might falsely use rape as an excuse to obtain an abortion.
Just before the Idaho's Senate passed the bill, which requires woman to have an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion, opponents of the bill pointed out that it makes no exception for rape victims, incest victims, or women in medical emergencies.
Winder, a Republican from Boise, responded to those concerns by raising the question of whether women understand when they have been raped.
"Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this," Winder said on the Senate floor. "I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that's part of the counseling that goes on."
Not surprisingly, Akin has had cold feet about efforts to expand the definition of rape, raising question about the 1991 bill that updated Missouri law to outlaw sexual abuse and rape within marriage for the first time because rape charges "in a real messy divorce" could be used as "a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He ultimately voted for the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. John Ashcroft.
The most prominent example of the peculiar effort to downplay rape in order to decrease access to abortion cropped up in Congress earlier this year. Sponsored by New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, H.R. 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," would have rewritten the rape exception in federal abortion-funding bans from the language in the Hyde Amendment. Henceforth, according to the bill, there would be exemptions only for something called "forcible rape." (Presumably, this is the same thing Willke called "assault rape" and Akin called "legitimate rape," as opposed to what Willke called "consensual" "statutory" rape.) After a public outcry, Smith retreated from his first draft of the bill and reinstituted the Hyde language, though an additional provision was added later to clarify that the bill will "not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape." Akin and Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan were cosponsors of the bill, along with 225 others. The bill passed the House with all Republicans and 16 Democrats voting for it, but then died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. President Obama had pledged to veto the bill.
According to a 1996 article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, "among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year."