A conversation between U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey and his constituents went viral this week after the topic turned to rape and abortion and Gingrey appeared to defend controversial comments by a pair of his fellow Republicans on the topic.
Speaking to constituents in Smyrna on Thursday, in an exchange first reported by the Marietta Daily Journal, Gingrey, R-Marietta, was asked about the impact of the abortion-rights debate on the fall elections. Gingrey brought up the failed U.S. Senate campaigns of Republicans Todd Akin of Missouri, who said the female body would not allow a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape,” and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, who said that if a woman is impregnated from a rape, “that is something that God intended to happen.”
Gingrey said Mourdock was only saying “that’s still a child and that’s a child of God.” Addressing Akin’s comments, Gingrey said a scared, newly pregnant woman could lie about whether she was raped.
“That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape,” Gingrey said. “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.”
Gingrey, an obstetrician/gynecologist since 1975, continued by drawing on his medical background.
“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.”
Gingrey’s comments were picked up by national media outlets Friday and prompted a response from Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards.
“Representative Gingrey’s comments are ignorant and offensive,” Richards said. “These remarks are yet another reminder that some politicians would rather demean and dismiss women than focus on what they were elected to do – fix the economy and create jobs.”
The Young Democrats of Georgia circulated an online petition calling for Gingrey to resign after his “flatly offensive anti-women rhetoric.”
In a follow-up statement to the AJC, Gingrey said: “I do not defend, nor do I stand by, the remarks made by Rep. Akin and Mr. Mourdock. In my attempt to provide context as to what I presumed they meant, my position was misconstrued.”
In the same meeting, the Marietta Daily Journal reported, Gingrey also addressed gun control, a subject in the news since the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn. He said, “I would be willing to listen to the possibility” of restricting high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as revisions to the gun-show loophole that allows some gun buyers to avoid background checks.