The Problem With The Anti-Abortion Movement’s ‘Rape Exception’
Our culture does not make it easy to report sexual assault and rape. The crime itself is deeply personal, surrounded by misinformation, and subject to more victim-blaming than any other form of abuse or violence. I was raped seven years ago, and though I’ve finally begun to open up about my experience, I have never spoken to the police about my rape. That’s something that I deeply regret, but it is a reality of my situation.
When I think back to the weeks after my rape, I was unable to function as a human being. I didn’t leave my college dorm room for days on end. My voicemail actually ran out of space for messages. I spent the entire next year in a downward spiral, coping with the aftermath of a truly horrible experience. According to the rape exception, if a pregnancy would’ve resulted from my rape, I would’ve had to report and prove that I was a rape victim to be able to have an abortion. At a time when my emotional state didn’t allow for looking men in the eyes, I would have been asked to explain my entire situation to a group of people that would get to decide whether or not I had to give birth to a child that I wasn’t prepared to care for.
The rape exception is not enough. In fact, the very existence of this qualifier shows why abortion rights for all women are so important. Even if you don’t agree with abortion on a personal level, you have no way of knowing or experiencing what’s going on in another woman’s life. You have no idea how she got pregnant or why she might need an abortion, and she should be given the dignity to decide what’s right for her. If you excuse abortion in cases of rape, you acknowledge that there are circumstances in which a woman has every right to end a pregnancy. Who are you to define those circumstances?
If you wouldn’t force a rape victim to carry a baby, why would you force anyone else? And who do you think should determine which excuses are “legitimate”?
Congressman Akin’s statement was completely false. And every time I hear such ignorance, a sad part of me acknowledges that those beliefs are part of the reason that I didn’t report my rape. It makes me thankful that I didn’t have to come face-to-face with such stupidity at my most vulnerable time. But we should remember that the question of rape and abortion is an important one. We should remember that even with those exceptions, no one ever explains how they would work. No one admits that they would make victims prove their abuse to a society that constantly blames them for their own assault before an abortion would be allowed.
[UPDATE: After this article was published, Mitt Romney spoke with the National Review Online and issued a much more forceful denunciation of Congressman Akin’s statement. The Presidential hopeful said, “Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong. Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive. I have an entirely different view. What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it.”]