Dutch candidate echoes Akin comments on rape and abortion

Fri, Aug 31, 2012, 01:00

THE LEADER of the SGP, a Christian fundamentalist party in the Netherlands, has said that women who are raped seldom become pregnant. His comments have been dismissed by female politicians across the political spectrum as “ridiculous” and “shocking”.

Asked during a general election TV interview if he agreed with the views of US congressman Todd Akin, that women had “a natural defence mechanism” that prevented them from becoming pregnant when they were raped, Kees van der Staaij replied: “That is a fact. It seldom happens.”

Mr van der Staaij (44), who has been leader of the ultra-conservative Calvinist Party since May 2010, added: “These women deserve to be treated with a lot of compassion.

“Even though the chances of becoming pregnant after being raped are small, the problems the victims face are enormous.”

However, he stressed that despite the terrible consequences for the victims of rape, the SGP party – which bases its policies on a strict interpretation of the Bible and does not allow its female members to stand for election – remained steadfastly opposed to abortion.

It would be wrong to create the impression that all abortions were the result of rape, he said.

“We are, under all circumstances, for the unborn life.”

As the election campaign enters its final fortnight, Mr Van der Staaij’s comments generated a storm of condemnation, mainly from left-wing political parties who claimed he had also used erroneous statistics to support his case.

The SGP leader had maintained that 0.5 per cent of women who were raped became pregnant – whereas the authoritative figure from the Netherlands Institute for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights was 7 per cent.

GreenLeft leader Jolande Sap described Mr Van der Staaij’s comments as “ridiculous”, adding: “I’m afraid even a biology lesson wouldn’t be enough to change his mind.”

Labour MP Jetta Klinsma said she was “shocked” and called on Mr van der Staaij to apologise to the women of the Netherlands.

The comments were also a trending topic on Twitter, where one satirical critic tweeted: “So … Kees van der Staaij has kicked off the 1632 election campaign!”

Last night, Mr van der Staaij responded with apparent bemusement to the furore, observing: “There are always people who react to just a fragment of a conversation. They always want a scapegoat.”

The election on September 12th has become a neck-and-neck race between the Liberals of caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte and the anti-austerity Socialist Party, with Labour in third place.

Latest polling shows the Socialists falling back after a lacklustre TV debate by the party’s leader, Emile Roemer.

“Perhaps I was too nice,” Mr Roemer commented ruefully.