Congressional Candidate's Abortion Remarks Under Fire

Virginia Republican Yesli Vega suggests pregnancy isn't as likely after rape
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2022 7:56 AM CDT
Congressional Candidate's Abortion Remarks Under Fire
GOP congressional candidate Yesli Vega, front. She faces incumbent Democrat Abigail Spanberger in the November election.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

It hasn't taken long for the question of abortion to surface as a point of controversy in at least one congressional race. Axios has produced audio of Republican candidate Yesli Vega in Virginia suggesting it's plausible that pregnancy isn't as likely after rape. Vega faces Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger in November in the closely watched contest. The audio is from a conversation Vega had with another woman at a Stafford County event. At one point, the woman says, "I've actually heard that it's harder for a woman to get pregnant if she's been raped. Have you heard that?" Vega's response:

  • "Well, maybe because there's so much going on in the body. 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." When the other woman suggests the woman's "body shuts down," Vega says, "Yeah, yeah. And then 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." (Listen to the clip here.)

  • More: Vega, a Prince William County supervisor, is also an auxiliary sheriff's deputy and former Alexandria police officer, per the Washington Post. Just before the rape question came up, she spoke of that experience. "The left will say, 'Well what about in cases of rape or incest?' 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." This comment led to the rape question above. (The clip is here.)
  • Criticism: Spanberger described Vega's comments about the chances of pregnancy after rape as “devoid of truth, shamefully disrespectful toward victims of rape, and clearly indicate that she is not qualified to be making serious policy decisions on behalf of our fellow Virginians" in a Twitter thread. Spanberger is a strong supporter of abortion rights, while Vega supports the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Vega responds: “Liberals are desperate to distract from their failed agenda of record high gas and grocery prices, and skyrocketing crime,” she wrote in a statement to media outlets including the New York Times, after her comments surfaced. “For all the left-wing bloggers and media, as a mother of two children, yes I’m fully aware of how women get pregnant.”
  • Context: Abortions that result from rape are uncommon, accounting for an estimated 1% of them, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. The CDC estimates that 3 million women in the US have become pregnant from rape.
  • Political context: Democrats are expected to make Vega's comments a focal point in the remainder of the race. The above coverage notes that GOP Rep. Todd Akin, who was running for Senate in Missouri, said in 2012 that pregnancy after rape is “really rare” because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The comments caused an uproar, though Akin rebuffed demands he leave the race. He went on to lose to Democrat Claire McCaskill by about 16 points.
(More abortion stories.)

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