John C. Willke

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John C. Willke
Born John Charles Willke
(1925-04-05)April 5, 1925
Maria Stein, Ohio, United States
Died February 20, 2015(2015-02-20) (aged 89)
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Nationality American
Known for Pro-life activist and former President of the National Right to Life Committee
Spouse(s) Barbara Jean Willke (c. 1923 – 2013) (m. c. 1948 – 2013) her death
Scientific career
Fields physician

John Charles Willke (April 5, 1925 – February 20, 2015) was an American author, physician, and anti-abortion activist. Along with his wife Barbara, he authored a number of books on abortion and human sexuality. Willke was an obstetrician in Cincinnati, Ohio, but ceased practicing medicine in 1988 in order to devote himself full-time to the anti-abortion movement.[1] He was president of National Right to Life from 1984 through 1991. He co-founded the Life Issues Institute in 1991.[2] Willke was a proponent of the concept that women's bodies can resist pregnancy resulting from sexual assault, a position which the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated in 2012 is false.[1][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Willke was born in Maria Stein, Ohio, the son of Marie Margaret (Wuennemann) and Gerald Thomas Willke.[4][5] He was a son and grandson of doctors. He attended Roger Bacon High School (1942) in Cincinnati and earned his M.D. from the University of Cincinnati in 1948.[6]


Willke practiced as a family practitioner for much of his medical career (1950 – 1988). He was on the senior attending staff of the formerly named Providence and Good Samaritan hospitals (affiliated with The University of Toledo among many institutions).[7]

Views on pregnancy via rape[edit]

Willke was a proponent of the concept that female rape victims have physiologic defenses against pregnancy, and thus that women rarely become pregnant after a sexual assault. Willke wrote in Christian Life Resources in 1999: "There's no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy". Willke claimed that for what he called "forcible rape" or "assault rape" (which Willke defined as separate from statutory rape) pregnancy is rare, resulting in only approximately four pregnancies per state per year.[1][8] Research published in the Journal of American Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded rape "is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies". A separate study of 405 female rape victims of reproductive age found 6.4% became pregnant.[9][10]

In an interview on August 20, 2012, following the Todd Akin rape and pregnancy controversy, Willke said: "This is a traumatic thing—she's, shall we say, she's uptight. She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic." Willke's assertions were dismissed as false and outlandish by experts in obstetrics and gynecology.[11][12][13] The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that rape victims had no control over whether they became pregnant, adding that "to suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths".[13] Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive health at Harvard Medical School, dismissed Willke's claims by saying: "There are no words for this—it is just nuts."[11]

Political affiliations[edit]

Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign embraced Willke as "an important surrogate for Governor Romney's pro-life and pro-family agenda",[14] and Romney expressed pride to "have the support of a man who has meant so much to the pro-life movement in our country."[15]

After Todd Akin, a U.S. representative from Missouri, made a controversial remark about rape and pregnancy, stating "legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancy, Willke publicly defended Akin, saying he believed Akin meant to say "forcible rape" not "legitimate rape". The congressman was facing criticism over the phrase "legitimate rape", which was taken to suggest some forms or rape are acceptable. Akin confirmed he misspoke and that Willke was correct in that he did mean to say "forcible rape".[16]

In August 2012, Willke wrote Mitt Romney a letter in which he wrote, "It's time for Republican leaders to rise to the level of Rep. Akin's principle and courage and stand with him and the Republican platform that stands for the protection of every human life."[17] Willke told the Washington bureau of The Daily Telegraph that he had met with Romney during his 2012 presidential campaign, and Romney had praised him saying, "thank you for your support – we agree on almost everything, and if I am elected President I will make some major pro-life pronouncements." [18]

Books and booklets[edit]

  • Handbook on Abortion - First published in 1971, the Handbook on Abortion is an anti-abortion booklet written and published by Willke and his wife. The booklet has been widely distributed, republished, and translated, and has been influential in shaping pro-life thought, according to journalist Linda Greenhouse.[19]
  • Abortion and Slavery: History Repeats ISBN 978-0685087824
  • How to Teach Children the Wonder of Sex: a guide for parents and teachers ISBN 978-0910728171
  • Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia, Past & Present ISBN 978-0910728225
  • Abortion, Questions and Answers: Why Can't We Love Them Both ISBN 978-0318351650


  1. ^ a b c Smyth, Julie (August 24, 2012). "Ohio doctor helps perpetuate rape pregnancy ideas". Associated Press. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  2. ^ Life Issues Institute Mission Archived 2014-10-27 at the Wayback Machine..
  3. ^ "Anti-Abortion Advocate Dr. John Willke Dies at 89 in Ohio". February 21, 2015. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^
  6. ^ Enquirer
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2010-06-28.  Life
  8. ^ Willke, John (April 1999). "Rape Pregnancies Are Rare". Life Issues Connector. Christian Life Resources. 
  9. ^ Kliff, Sarah (20 August 2012). "Rep. Todd Akin is wrong about rape and pregnancy, but he's not alone". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  10. ^ Holmes, MM; Resnick, HS; Kilpatrick, DG; Best, CL (August 1996). "Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women". American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 175 (2): 320–324. doi:10.1016/S0002-9378(96)70141-2. PMID 8765248. 
  11. ^ a b "Health Experts Dismiss Assertions on Rape". The New York Times. 2012-08-21. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  12. ^ Dellorto, Danielle (August 22, 2012). "Experts: Rape does not lower odds of pregnancy". CNN. 
  13. ^ a b Gardner, Amanda (August 21, 2012). "No Truth to Akin's Claim That Rape Hinders Pregnancy, Experts Say". U.S. News & World Report. 
  14. ^ Lee, Kristen (2012-08-21). "Pro-life doctor John Willke, linked to Akin's 'forcible rape' claims, endorsed Romney in 2007". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Pesta, Abigail (August 21, 2012). "Todd Akin Finds a Friend in Dr. John Willke, a Pro-Life 'Founding Father'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  17. ^ Mascaro, Lisa; Kim Geiger (21 August 2012). "campaign 2012 Latest News / Battleground States / Fundraising / Super PAC Spending / Political Cartoons / Opinion Todd Akin touts support from crusader who espoused theories on rape". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  18. ^ Swaine, Jon (August 22, 2012). "US election: Mitt Romney met Todd Akin doctor Jack Willke during 2012 campaign". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 24, 2017. 
  19. ^ "The Rhetoric That Shaped The Abortion Debate". National Public Radio. 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 

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