STAFFORD, Va. — Following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Republican candidate for the 7th Congressional District in Virginia is receiving pushback over remarks she made seemingly casting doubt on how often rape victims become pregnant.
Yesli Vega, a Prince William County supervisor and sheriff’s deputy, won the GOP primary in a race that could help determine who controls the U.S. House of Representatives.
While this comes as good news to Republicans, audio released by Axios during a campaign event in Stafford County last month sparked debate over whether Vega is suited to take on the role.
In the released audio, Vega relays her opinion that rape and pregnancy did not have much of a correlation. An unidentified woman asked Vega, "I've actually heard that it's harder for a woman to get pregnant if she's been raped. Have you heard that?"
"Well, maybe because there's so much going on in the body,” Vega responded. “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."
Vega, who became a police officer in 2011, stated, “I've worked one case where as a result of a rape, the young woman became pregnant."
Nearly 3 million women in the U.S. have experienced rape-related pregnancy in their lifetime, according to the CDC.
The Guttmacher Institute reported 1% of abortions stem from rape in the country, but experts say there are likely many cases that are never reported.
Vega’s opponent, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D- Va) released her response to the GOP newcomer’s comments, saying they are “devoid of truth, shamefully disrespectful towards victims of rape, and clearly indicate that she is not qualified to be making serious policy decisions.”
Vega responded via a statement from her campaign manager:
"Liberals are desperate to distract from their failed agenda of record high gas and grocery prices and skyrocketing crime," the statement says. “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.”
Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington, described the comments made by Vega as a “political misstep.” He said that while Vega's comments may hit with the “cultural warriors” on the Republican side, members of outer ring suburbs in Virginia may feel her message is beginning on the wrong foot.
"The reality is this was a net plus for Spanberger that her opponent was caught on tape saying things that really don't resonate well with voters who are not reflexively Republican or pro life," Farnsworth said. “It is a big, big problem for the Vega campaign right out of the starting blocks."