Another Day, Another Politician Who Doesn’t Understand Rape, Pregnancy, Or Abortion

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Now, on to the second part of Mr. Bartlett’s statement. The part that contains both a gross over-exaggeration and under-exaggeration all at once.

First, he gives the biggest simplification of all time to a really personal and thoughtful choice. “They just don’t want to have a baby!” Yes, Mr. Bartlett, some women decide not to carry a pregnancy to term. I highly doubt that the decision is as flippant as you present it. Every woman has her own circumstance, whether they don’t feel financially or emotionally prepared to raise a child, whether there are extenuating circumstances, whether their health might not allow them to successfully carry a child. Acting like women don’t give this decision the thought and contemplation it deserves is one way that anti-abortion activists attempt to enforce more rules and regulations around the procedure, like waiting periods and transvaginal ultrasounds. Women are smart and thoughtful, they are capable of making these decisions on their own.

Then, Congressman Bartlett makes the ridiculous claim that sex-selective abortion is the second most common reason for abortion. He makes it seem like it’s some type of growing trend in the country. Let’s get ready for more math. A woman cannot find out the sex of her child until approximately 20 weeks of gestation. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 1.5% of abortions occur after 20 weeks of gestation. So given the statistics, the number of abortions that occur after 20 weeks and the number of abortions that occur due to rape are relatively close.

Even more, while the numbers are hard to ascertain, studies suggest that the majority of late-term abortions occur because of health concerns for either the mother or the baby. So the majority of abortions in that 1.5% are definitely not concerned with sex, they’re concerned with fetal abnormalities or the risk of the mother’s life. That would make the possibility of sex-selective abortion in the US even more rare that abortion from rape.

This may seem like a small statement to quibble over, but when politicians discuss rape, abortion, or even pregnancy for that matter, it is important to hold them accountable for the accuracy of their statements. Congresspeople like Roscoe Bartlett want to legislate our reproductive rights. They want to deny us access to abortion. They want to make our pregnancies legal matters. It is important to scrutinize and correct their statements. Those misguided beliefs could lead to misguided laws.

The basic fact that Representative Bartlett is missing is that abortion is always a personal and important decision. You can’t marginalize some aspects and inflate other imaginary problems to muddle the conversation.

(Photo: kentoh/Shutterstock)

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