Freind's Rape-pregnancy Theory Refuted

Posted: March 23, 1988

HARRISBURG — The odds that a woman who is raped will get pregnant are "one in millions and millions and millions," said state Rep. Stephen Freind, R-Delaware County, the Legislature's leading abortion foe.

The reason, Freind said, is that the traumatic experience of rape causes a woman to "secrete a certain secretion" that tends to kill sperm.

Two Philadelphia doctors specializing in human reproduction characterized Freind's contention as scientifically baseless.

Freind made the statement on a central Pennsylvania radio interview program earlier this month.

Freind, who has been trying for years to get strong anti-abortion laws through the Legislature, said yesterday that he's standing by his claim and will provide medical documentation to support it in about a week.

At a news conference on sex education on the Capitol steps, he told a cheering crowd, "If you're expecting me to back off, the answer is no."

Freind's comments came to light late last week. They originally were broadcast by Hanover radio station WHVR on March 1.

In an abortion debate with Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union, Freind said, according to transcripts: "It is almost but not quite impossible to become pregnant on the basis of rape. The odds are one in millions and millions and millions. And there is a physical reason for that.

"Rape, obviously, is a traumatic experience. When that traumatic experience is undergone, a woman secretes a certain secretion, which has a tendency to kill sperm."

Informed of Freind's remarks, Dr. Luigi Mastroianni Jr., director of the division of human reproduction at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said yesterday: "Boy, if I could find out what that (secretion) was, I'd use it as a contraceptive."

Mastroianni, who is also a past president of the American Fertility Society, added, "There is no such secretion."

He said Freind's statements were "scientifically unfounded" and "reflect a lack of concern for women who have been victimized by rape" by dismissing the act as not having consequence.

Dr. Richard Depp, chairman of the department of obstetrics and Gynecology at Thomas Jefferson University, said, "The only reality is that women get pregnant when they are ovulating."

He said of Freind's claim, "There's no basis for that. That's nonsense."

Both Mastroianni and Depp said women who are raped can and do become pregnant.

Yesterday, Freind cited a "Dr. Mecklenburg" as someone supporting his comments. He said Mecklenburg has 30 years' experience in obstetrics and gynecology, with clinics in Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Washington lists a Fred E. Mecklenburg in Great Falls, Va., as a member. But neither the organization nor public telephone directories list any offices or phone numbers for Mecklenburg.

A staff member in Freind's office said she would check on the full identity of the physician cited by Freind. But she did not return phone calls after that.

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