Jun 27, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Spanberger rival Yesli Vega doubts pregnancy after rape

Yesli Vega celebrates her Republican primary win for the 7th Congressional District during an election night event on June 21, 2022 in Woodbridge, Virginia.

Yesli Vega celebrates her Republican primary win for the 7th Congressional District during an election night event on June 21 in Woodbridge. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Yesli Vega, the Republican nominee running against Democrat Abigail Spanberger for Congress, downplayed the possibility of becoming pregnant as a result of rape when asked about her stance on abortion at a campaign stop last month, according to audio obtained by Axios.

What's happening: At an event in Stafford County, Vega, a Prince William County supervisor and sheriff's deputy, was asked what she thinks Congress should do if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

  • After expressing support for new state-level restrictions, she said, "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."

Vega was then asked, "I've actually heard that it's harder for a woman to get pregnant if she's been raped. Have you heard that?"

  • Vega responded: "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. 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."

Asked for comment on her remarks, which have not previously been reported, Vega told Axios in a statement, "I'm a mother of two, I'm fully aware of how women get pregnant."

Of note: The identity of the person asking the questions in the audio is unknown. Vega's campaign did not dispute the audio's authenticity to Axios.

Why it matters: Vega has been unabashed in her support for reversing Roe, but her comments suggest her views may be a tough sell in a Democratic-leaning swing district that is expected to be key in deciding control of Congress next year.

  • "Pro-choice groups see rape and incest exceptions as the canary in the coal mine when it comes to extremism," Mary Ziegler, a law professor who studies reproductive freedom at Florida State University College of Law, told USA Today. "They argue ... if you're willing to abandon these exceptions, then there's no saying when you're going to stop."
  • Polling released Sunday suggests a majority of Americans — 59% — disapprove of the decision to overturn Roe.

Catch up fast: Vega won the GOP primary last week over better-known opponents with endorsements from some of the Republican Party's most outspoken culture warriors, including Sen. Ted Cruz and conservative activist Ginni Thomas.

Context: Abortions stemming from rape are uncommon, accounting for 1% of all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research organization.

  • Nearly 3 million women in the United States have experienced rape-related pregnancy during their lifetime, according to the CDC.

What they're saying: Vega accused pro-abortion rights groups of "pushing a narrative that the vast majority of abortions are from pregnancies as a result of rape, when in fact that is not true."

  • The only exception for which she voiced support was "rare instances where the life of the mother is at risk, and doctors have taken every measure to save the lives of both the mother and her unborn child."

The other side: In a statement Friday, Spanberger expressed dismay at the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe.

  • "Rather than punish America's women, lawmakers must stand with them," Spanberger said. "And rather than pursue extreme new laws, our elected officials must remember their obligation to protect our basic rights. Today is a dark day, but it cannot be the end of our efforts."

The big picture: Debate has already begun among congressional Republicans and Democrats, with some hardline GOP lawmakers pushing new nationwide restrictions.

Vega did not answer directly when asked if she would support a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but she voiced support for a state ban after 15 weeks that Gov. Youngkin has said he now backs.

Go deeper via Axios' Roe v. Wade dashboard

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