Congressional candidate Vega facing criticism for comments on rape and pregnancy

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Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, the Republican nominee in the 7th Congressional District, is coming under fire for her recent comments on rape, pregnancy and abortion.

Axios on Monday released audio it obtained of Vega speaking with an unidentified person at a campaign event in Stafford County in which she was asked about exceptions to abortion restrictions.

The audio was released in the wake of Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which had guaranteed a federal protection for abortion. The ruling returns the issue to states, many of which have trigger laws to quickly and broadly implement abortion restrictions.

In the audio, Vega says, “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 is a deputy of the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office, which primarily oversees administration of the local court system. She previously served in the Prince William County, Alexandria and Manassas Park police departments.

Vega, who was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2019 and is one of its most conservative members, provided InsideNoVa with a statement through a campaign spokesperson.

“Liberals are desperate to distract from their failed agenda of record high gas and grocery prices, and skyrocketing crime,” Vega said. “For all the left-wing bloggers and media, as a mother of two children, yes I’m fully aware of how women get pregnant. [Democratic Congresswoman and Vega opponent] Abigail Spanberger and the radical left would rather lie and twist the truth than explain her extreme support for on-demand, taxpayer-funded abortions, even up to the moment of birth.”

The Hyde Amendment, approved in 1976, prohibits federal funding for abortions.

Rapes can result in pregnancy, but the frequency and likelihood of such a pregnancy is less certain because of a lack of studies and underreporting of rapes.

A 1996 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology of 4,008 American women estimated that the rape-related pregnancy rate is 5% per rape for victims between ages 12 and 45. The study estimated 32,101 pregnancies resulted from rape each year.

The study found that 50% of the women had an abortion, 32.4% didn’t discover they were pregnant until the second trimester, 32.2% opted to keep the infant and 5.9% placed the child for adoption.

A 1998 article in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing estimated that the probability of a rape-related pregnancy was between 4% and 10%. The study suggested that the rate could be higher based on wartime rape data theorizing that fear, anger and stress could trigger ovulation. A 2003 article in Human Nature suggests a similar conclusion.

However, the Life Issues Institute, a pro-life organization, downplayed the potential of pregnancy from rape. A 1999 article cites stress and trauma as factors that would decrease the likelihood of a rape-related pregnancy to around 225 a year.

A 2004 survey from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research organization, estimated that 1% of all abortions stemmed from rape. Based on its estimated number of abortions in 2019, 862,000, about 8,620 of those would be because the person was raped.

Guttmacher said the two most common reasons for abortions in 2004 were that “having a baby would dramatically change my life” (74%) and “I can’t afford a baby now” (73%).

Women also cited possible problems affecting the health of the fetus (13%) or concerns about their own health (12%) in the study.

When asked for comment on any regulations Vega would support on abortions, the spokesperson provided a tweet that Vega posted after the Supreme Court decision. In it, she says the decision puts control back with state governments “to make their own careful and deliberate decisions on the issue of abortion as the representatives closest to the wishes and [desires] of their citizens.”

Vega added, “The federal government was never meant to have this kind of power.”

Vega will face Spanberger in the November election. In a statement, Spanberger called Vega’s comments “extreme and ignorant.” She said in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, the comments were “even more horrifying and disrespectful to the millions of American women who have or will become pregnant due to sexual violence.”

“My opponent’s views are devoid of truth, shamefully disrespectful towards victims of rape, and clearly indicate that she is not qualified to be making serious policy decisions on behalf of our fellow Virginians,” Spanberger said. “I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure a woman’s right to choose and the fundamental right to privacy.”

Vega faced widespread criticism online from Democrats after the Axios story was published.

“This woman is running around in law enforcement spewing this kind of crap?” Del. L. Louise Lucas wrote in a tweet. “She’s a complete disgrace to everyone else wearing that uniform.”

Redistricting moved the 7th District from a swath of central Virginia west of Richmond to Northern Virginia. It now covers eastern Prince William, the city of Fredericksburg and all of King George, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline, Culpeper, Orange, Greene and Madison counties plus about 35 voters in Albemarle County.

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