But here's the thing: Akin didn't make this idea up. That women can't get pregnant when they're raped is a thing that some people actually believe. I stumbled across this several months ago while researching another story. It turns out to be an idea held and repeated by individuals who oppose abortion in any circumstance.Not only them! I was taught a version of this as an undergraduate, in a class on Eastern (i.e., Asian) metaphysics. The professor was explaining the benefits of Kundalini meditation, one of which was allegedly that it allowed women to exert greater conscious control over their reproductive functions. This was something women could do anyway, he said, as in the example of women repelling pregnancy from rape; but with adequate meditation you could come to understand and order the flow of energy within your body, and use the same capacity simply as birth control.
I put this down as a highly unlikely claim. Still, it's not a surprising one. Fertility is one of the great mysteries of nature, and it is not at all surprising that there remain some magical ideas about it. It's a magical process, in the good sense of the term: it brings forth life and renewal. It's also a hidden process, in that the early stages of it happen out of sight and according to things we really don't consciously control. That's the kind of process where magical thinking is most likely to turn up.
So it's hard for me to blame someone for believing something like this, assuming he was -- as Akin said he was in his original remarks -- told it by doctors. Such doctors exist; the Mother Jones post just cited offers a link to "Physicians for Life," which makes the same claim. The claim isn't inexplicable, and it seems to be shared by certain pseudoscientific figures on both sides of the abortion debate (my professor was quite left-wing on reproduction issues: his whole point was that here was another wonderful way for women to take control of whether or not they got pregnant). It's important to get the facts right, and to disabuse people of claims that are demonstrably wrong: but if their reasons for holding the belief is understandable, it's not a demonstration of bad character that they happened to believe something that isn't really true.