My Real Concern About Limited Abortions

Even the Republicans are willing to concede abortion exceptions in cases of rape and incest.  FINALLY! What looks like some glimpse of sanity.

Except, it isn’t.  Not really.  At least, I’m afraid it’s not.  What it really is, most likely, is a mask that looks like reason but is just disguising an adamant anti-abortion mentality that has come to underlay a lot of their argumentation and rhetoric over the last year.

My concern is pretty simple: I am afraid that in order to get an abortion you are going to have to prove you were raped or a victim of incest.  That’s a little problematic for a couple of reasons.  The first of these reasons is that there are no laws that can compel a survivor of sexual assault to report her assault, and for good reason.  The kind of stigma associated with sexual assault has proven to be a real deterrent for reporting, and to date the FBI and RAINN have both stated that an alarmingly low number of incidents are reported.  Unless we want to change the laws and say that women must REPORT rape, which goes against a lot of important principles regarding victims’ rights, not to mention the fact that this can drag on the trauma for survivors, then this can’t be the mechanism we use to establish a claim that a woman was raped.

Moreover, we can’t force women to get SANE exams.  This means that we can’t collect forensic evidence regarding said rape.  We can’t force a medical evaluation to look for signs of the assault.  And women may not be in a position to get this done in the first place.  Not every one lives near a hospital with a SANE program or has the ability to get there easily or even knows that SANE exams exist (I certainly didn’t until I got to college and could not possibly tell you where to get one in my hometown).

As if all of this were not enough, a woman might not immediately identify what happened to her as rape.  She may have been drugged or unconscious.  These are still incidents of rape, but it may take time to come to terms with it.  She may have no idea what really happened to her.  This means that providing meaningful details regarding the incident may be problematic.

This means that if there WERE a requirement to prove one were raped, it would be very difficult for many women to do so.  How does one prove one was raped?  Too often it becomes a he-said-she-said.  This is why, in victims’ services, we always defer to the idea that the survivor is telling the truth.  If you say you were raped, you were raped.  That’s how counseling works, it is how advocacy works, it is how Crime Victims Compensation works.

What this means for rape victims who need an abortion on those grounds is this: if you have to prove that you were raped, and you can’t, you can no longer access abortion under this exception.  This means that the exception is nothing more than a front, pretty rhetoric to make it look like some modicum of respect for women and for survivors of rape is being upheld, when in fact, it may well not be.

Now, here’s the flip side of this debate: if they DON’T institute a requirement, then a claim will inevitably be put forth that women are LYING about being raped in order to get abortions.  (This is why I’m concerned that they’ll try to require that you prove it.)  This means that rape victims now get the stigma of being “baby killers”, which, when you throw in some victim-blaming and slut stigma, is really really problematic.  It adds EXTRA stigma to an important medical decision and worse, gives people even more grounds to claim that the woman is lying.

You know what survivors of sexual assault DON’T need?  People accusing them of lying.

Look, if you’re anti-abortion, be anti-abortion.  But if you think that anyone, even if it is only rape victims, legitimately deserve access to abortion services to terminate the pregnancy that they didn’t want and did not do anything to conceive, then you need to defer to safe and legal abortion across the board.  “Limited abortions” or “no abortions with exceptions for rape” are a double-edged sword, the sheep’s costume that the wolf has donned to make you think it will all be okay.

Protect women’s rights.  Support the ability of survivors of sexual assault to regain control over their bodies and their lives.  And when you hear this political rhetoric, don’t be fooled.  The Republicans may sound like they’ve made a concession to sanity, but until I see proof that survivors would be able to meaningfully access abortion services, I’m staying skeptical of the “abortion exceptions” line of argumentation.

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~ by Randi Saunders on October 14, 2012.

5 Responses to “My Real Concern About Limited Abortions”

  1. Yes! I think you are absolutely right and it is terrifying and unacceptable! And whatever side of the issue you are on, the Republican stated plan takes away women’s autonomy which is definitely a step backwards!
    Thank you for the post! -Liza Wolff-Francis, Matrifocal Point

  2. […] idea of “limited abortions” is a problematic one for survivors of rape and sexual […]

  3. […] a writer, and a student of international women’s issues. This post was originally published The Radical Idea. AU College Democrats received her permission to republish her […]

  4. […] Saunders writes about this issue on her blog The Radical Idea, check it out! She lays out her concerns really well! It is chilling to think of a rape survivor […]

  5. […] “My concern is pretty simple: I am afraid that in order to get an abortion you are going to have to prove you were raped or a victim of incest.  That’s a little problematic for a couple of reasons.  The first of these reasons is that there are no laws that can compel a survivor of sexual assault to report her assault, and for good reason.  The kind of stigma associated with sexual assault has proven to be a real deterrent for reporting, and to date the FBI and RAINN have both stated that an alarmingly low number of incidents are reported.  Unless we want to change the laws and say that women must REPORT rape, which goes against a lot of important principles regarding victims’ rights, not to mention the fact that this can drag on the trauma for survivors, then this can’t be the mechanism we use to establish a claim that a woman was raped.” My Real Consern About Limited Abortions – The Radical Idea […]

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