A female Republican congressional candidate claimed on the campaign trail in Virginia last month that rape victims are less likely to become pregnant because “it’s not something that’s happening organically.”
Yesli Vega made the eyebrow-raising comments while being asked for her thoughts on what then promised to be a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending the federal right to abortion.
An audio recording of the remarks, which took place at an event in Stafford County, was published by Axios on Monday. Vega—who is Democrat Abigail Spanberger’s rival for Congress in the Virginia’s liberal-leaning 7th District—said she was drawing on her experience as a Prince William County supervisor and a sheriff’s deputy after affirming her belief for state-level restrictions on abortion.
“The left will say, ‘Well what about in cases of rape or incest?’” Vega can be heard telling an unidentified interlocutor in the clip. “I’m a law-enforcement officer. I became a police officer in 2011. I’ve worked one case where as a result of a rape, the young woman became pregnant.”
Vega was also asked at the event if she had heard that it’s “harder for a woman to get pregnant if she’s been raped.”
“Well, maybe because there’s so much going on in the body,” Vega answered. “I don’t know. I haven’t, you know, seen any studies. But if I’m processing what you’re saying, it wouldn’t surprise me. Because it’s not something that’s happening organically. You’re forcing it. The individual, the male, is doing it as quickly—it’s not like, you know—and so I can see why there is truth to that. It’s unfortunate.”
When Axios asked Vega to comment on the remarks, she wrote in a statement: “I’m a mother of two, I’m fully aware of how women get pregnant.” Her campaign didn’t deny the authenticity of the audio.
Vega played up her law-enforcement credentials during her GOP primary race, which she won last week. She has been outspoken in her opposition to Roe and received endorsement from Republican heavyweights, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who concurred with the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday.
Vega’s rape comments echo the infamous comments made by former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, whose 2012 Senate race imploded when he asserted that victims of what he termed “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. “The female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin, who died last year, said in an interview during the race.
According to the CDC, almost three million women in the U.S. have experienced rape-related pregnancy during their lifetime. Cases of abortion from rape are rare, however, accounting for around 1 percent of all abortions in America, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research group.