House Science Committee members need a better grasp of the subject

Representative Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia) has joined a long list of previous and current House Science Committee members who have made questionable statements regarding the validity of science, which calls into question how members are selected to this committee.

Last week Gingrey, who for many years worked as an OBGYN and who co-chairs the House GOP Doctors Caucus, defended former Senate candidates Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Richard Mourdock (R-Ind.) in regard to their controversial comments regarding abortion and rape. In fact, he insisted that both men were partly right in their interpretations of pregnancy and rape. In reference to Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape,” Gingrey responded, “and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that” (NBC News).

He goes on to say, “And 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? But the 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. And yet the media took that and tore it apart” (NBC News). Even though research has consistently shown that rape and consensual intercourse have similar conception rates, and even though candidate Akin, who had also served on the House Science Committee, apologized for his remarks and admitted that he had the facts wrong, Representative Gingrey, a physician himself, insists on perpetuating a myth that is clearly damaging to victimized women.

Gingrey also defended candidate Mourdock, who stated during the campaign last fall that he opposed abortion without exception. It was his belief that if a woman conceived as a result of being raped, it was what God had intended. In his defense of Mourdock, Gingrey stated, “Mourdock basically said, ‘Look, if there is conception in the aftermath of a rape, that’s still a child, and it’s a child of God, essentially.’ Now, in Indiana, that cost him the election” (Salon).

Gingrey is far from alone in making such comments. Current House Science Committee member Paul Broun (R-Georgia),who is also a physician, recently made this startling comment: ”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” (Salon). And the current chair of the House Science Committee,  Representative Lamar Smith, (R-Texas), has soundly criticized a number of major news networks for coverage that he believes has been “largely slanted in favor of global warming alarmists” (Salon).

Perhaps the House should review its procedure regarding committee selections, keeping in mind that it might be helpful if Science Committee members actually believed in science.

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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