John Willke and John Smeaton

From Jon Swaine at the Telegraph:

Mitt Romney met John Willke, the doctor credited with popularising Todd Akin’s controversial views on rape and abortion, during the current election campaign and told him they agreed on “almost everything,” Dr Willke said.

Dr Willke, a prominent anti-abortion campaigner, claims to be an authority on the theory espoused by Mr Akin that victims of what the Republican congressman called “legitimate rape” do not become pregnant because their bodies “shut down” due to the trauma.

…The doctor said that he had also met Mr [Paul] Ryan, who sits in Congress for the Wisconsin district in which one of his sons lives, several times. He said that after listening to Dr Willke’s views on abortion during their last encounter, Mr Ryan replied: “That’s where I’m at”.

Other journalists have drawn attention to a 1999 essay by Willke, in which he explains “why rape pregnancies are rare”. Much of the article consists remarkably crude number crunching that should make a sociologist weep (“One-fourth of all women in the United States of childbearing age have been sterilized… the miscarriage rate is about 15 percent” etc), but he also – now notoriously – raised the issue of emotional stress:

Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions… So what further percentage reduction in pregnancy will this cause? No one knows…

This speculation does not appear to have been a major theme in Willke’s thinking, although the Akin controversy has inspired him to expound on his theory further. This time, though, the role of hormones is supplemented by the – also now notorious – concept of “spastic tubes”. The New York Times reports:

“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight,” Dr. Willke said of a woman being raped, adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”

The media has noted Willke’s role as former president of the National Right to Life Committee. However, he is also president of the International Right to Life Federation, where a former vice-president (and current board member) is none other than John Smeaton of the UK’s SPUC. The two men were profiled in 2010 by The Interim (“Canada’s Life and Family Newspaper”):

Two leaders of the international pro-life movement, who have more than three-quarters of a century of pro-life experience between them, will be in Ottawa Oct. 28-30 for the Building a Global Culture of Life conference.

Dr. Jack Willke, president of the International Right to Life Federation, began working in the pro-life movement in 1971. John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, joined the organization in 1974.

Smeaton himself adds:

In Ottawa, I welcomed delegates on behalf of International Right to Life Federation (IRLF) which was co-sponsoring (in a purely honorary way) Campaign Life Coalition’s Congress. I was standing in for our IRLF president Dr Jack Willke (who arrived after the opening ceremony).

In recent months, SPUC has broadened its remit to include other Christian Right issues; in January, the group “resolved to defend human life by defending marriage from the [UK] government’s proposed redefinition to include homosexual couples”. A few weeks later, it held a meeting on “Sex Education as Sexual Sabotage”, at which several MPs were treated to one of Judith Reisman’s monomaniacal diatribes against Alfred Kinsey. The MPs present did not include Nadine Dorries; despite Dorries’ close links with the UK Christian Right, she regards herself as regards herself as a pro-choice reformer, and she has abused Smeaton as being “shameful and cowardly”.

One Response

  1. I posted an article at Talk2action.org about Jack Willke’s decades of influence in U.S. anti-abortion activism.
    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2012/8/22/12431/4572

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