Rep. Steve King: I’ve Never Heard Of A Girl Getting Pregnant From Statutory Rape Or Incest

Updated at 1:59 p.m.

Rep. Steve King, one of the most staunchly conservative members of the House, was one of the few Republicans who did not strongly condemn Rep. Todd Akin Monday for his remarks regarding pregnancy and rape. King also signaled why — he might agree with parts of Akin’s assertion.

King told an Iowa reporter he’s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.“Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way,” King told KMEG-TV Monday, “and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter.”

A Democratic source flagged King’s praise of Akin in the KMEG interview to TPM. But potentially more controversial for King is his suggestion that pregnancies from statutory rape or incest don’t exist or happen rarely. A 1996 review by the Guttmacher Institute found “at least half of all babies born to minor women are fathered by adult men.”

Contacted by TPM, King’s office said that King didn’t mean he had never heard of pregnancy resulting from statutory rape or incest but that he had no direct, personal knowledge of such instances. “What he was saying was, he personally does not know a girl who was raped,” Brittany Lesser, a spokesperson for King said. “He never says, ‘I’ve never heard of that.’ There’s a fine line between ‘I’ve never heard of that’ and ‘I don’t know personally anybody who’s been raped. There’s a difference. There is a difference.”

The tie between statutory rape and teen pregnancy has been the subject of ad campaigns from groups like United Way.

H.R. 3, the bill co-sponsored by King, Akin and Paul Ryan in 2011, originally called for an exemption in the federal ban on abortion funding only in the case of “forcible rape.” That language was dropped after pressure from women’s advocates and Democrats. At the time, the Republican sponsors of the legislation weren’t too interested in discussing their reasoning for the wording.

King’s comments offer a window into the thinking behind the language, as well as the general belief in the different categories of rape that provoked Akin’s recent controversial comments about “legitimate rape” and the factually wrong idea that a woman’s body can prevent a pregnancy from rape.

Lesser said “of course” King is aware that girls have been impregnated by statutory rape or incest, and said King supports people who have not been forcibly raped receiving federal abortion coverage under a rape exemption. “That’s a given for anybody who understands pro-life legislation,” Lesser said.

In the KMEG interview, King defended Akin as “a strong Christian man, with a wonderful family” and appeared to push back on those calling for Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race.

“I think this election should be about: How did Todd Akin vote and what did he vote for and what did he stand for?” King said. “In this case, I’m seeing the same thing, petty, personal attacks substituting for strong policy.”

Watch raw video of the KMEG interview below. The version of the story as it was broadcast is here.

Transcript:

REPORTER: You support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that would provide federal funding for abortions to a person that has been forcefully raped. But what if someone isn’t forcibly raped and for example, a 12-year-old who gets pregnant? Should she have to bring this baby to term?

KING: Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way and I’d be open to hearing discussion about that subject matter. Generally speaking it’s this: that there millions of abortions in this country every year. Millions of them are paid for at least in part by taxpayers. I think it’s immoral for us to compel conscientious objecting taxpayers to fund abortion through the federal government, or any other government for that matter. So that’s my stand. And if there are exceptions there, then bring me those exceptions let’s talk about it. In the meantime it’s wrong for us to compel pro-life people to pay taxes to fund abortion.

UPDATE 2:

After this post was published, King’s office said he had been taken out of context.

“What he was saying was, he personally does not know a girl who was raped,” Brittany Lesser, a spokesperson for King said. “He never says, ‘I’ve never heard of that.’ There’s a fine line between ‘I’ve never heard of that’ and ‘I don’t know personally anybody who’s been raped. There’s a difference. There is a difference.”

As TPM originally reported, King’s response to a question about whether a young girl who gets pregnant should have to carry a baby to term was, “I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way.” King was not asked  whether he knew anyone personally who had been in such a circumstance.

Lesser said “of course” King is aware that girls have been impregnated by statutory rape or incest, and said King supports people who have not been forcibly raped receiving federal abortion coverage under a rape exemption.

“That’s a given for anybody who understands pro-life legislation,” Lesser said.

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