Rep. Todd Akin’s campaign is standing by his 2008 claim that doctors routinely perform abortions on women who are not actually pregnant, using a news report from 1978 and the testimony of a former Planned Parenthood official to back his accusations.
The internet was abuzz on Wednesday after Slate’s Amanda Marcotte uncovered previously unreported videos of the Missouri congressman on the House floor railing against abortion providers – who he compared to terrorists – that he claimed trick women into believing they are pregnant so they can charge them for unnecessary abortions. It was only the latest misguided comment about women from Akin, who was the focus of national attention this summer after he inferred there is a difference between rape and “legitimate rape.”
But instead of backing away from his latest claim, the Akin campaign is embracing it. Rick Tyler, a spokesperson for his U.S. Senate campaign, told Buzzfeed on Wednesday that there is “ample evidence” to support the allegation that there is apparently an epidemic of women being fooled into thinking they are pregnant.
“There's ample evidence that abortion doctors on any number of occasions have deceived women into thinking that they're pregnant, and then collect money for a procedure that they don't perform," said Rick Tyler, a spokesperson for Akin's campaign. "And I say they don't perform it because obviously the women weren't pregnant."
According to the report, Tyler cited a 1978 investigation by the Chicago Sun Times that said there were dozens of “abortion mills” in Chicago performing unnecessary procedures for profit.
“That’s a war on women that never gets reported,” Tyler told Buzzfeed, adding that it isn’t well known because there is no longer any “accurate” reporting on abortion in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases annual reports tracking legal abortions in the United States, which includes the number and characteristic of women obtaining the procedure.
There have been past assertions that some physicians perform abortion on women who weren’t actually pregnant. Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood branch who has since become a staunch anti-abortion activist, has endorsed Akin and released a statement to Buzzfeed alleging that Planned Parenthood “often scared women into getting services they didn’t need – including abortion – so we could collect the fees.”
Because home pregnancy tests were not readily available in the 1970s, it is more plausible that women could have been tricked into believing they were pregnant by physicians or abortion providers. However, in this day and age -- when women have over-the-counter access to pregnancy tests that offer reliable results in mere minutes -- it is extremely unlikely that women are seeking out abortions without being absolutely certain that they are pregnant.