Saturday, March 11, 2006

Rape and abortion

According to a major study:
The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. … A total 32.4% of these victims did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester; 32.2% opted to keep the infant whereas 50% underwent abortion and 5.9% placed the infant for adoption; an additional 11.8% had spontaneous abortion.
This is the story of one of victim (via Mike the Mad Biologist):
I once knew a woman who was brutally gang-raped many years ago.

Those words are horrifying, but appallingly banal in a way. Inexcusable violence against women is a sad and terrible fact in virtually every human society, and yet rape stories are so omnipresent that it's easy to get desensitized to them. I think that it's this lack of empathy that not only makes rape possible, but also is the force behind legislation such as that signed into law today in Pierre, South Dakota. …

This would have been sometime in the mid-sixties; I'm not certain of the year, but she would have been nineteen or so. Having gone to [Tijuana] in order to party with some friends and drink alcohol legally, a male acquaintance of hers slipped drugs into her drink. She ended up being raped by several men while unconscious in the back of someone's van. …

She was late with her period, a couple of days turned into a couple of weeks, and it quickly became obvious that her nightmare was far from over. A devout Catholic, she couldn't imagine getting an abortion from a doctor (at any rate, this was before CA liberalized their abortion laws, I think), so she decided to induce one herself.

After taking a handful of birth control pills she was wracked with severe cramps, and after a day or so of being seriously ill- I should note here that she was still living at home, and as far as I know hadn't told any family members about this- her menstrual cycle began. When the first wave had passed, she noticed one large clot in the toilet bowl amidst her blood... whether or not this is true, she was convinced that that clot was the baby she had been carrying.
Click through to read the rest.

Banning abortion forces women to carry their rapists' children, to carry a constant reminder of their brutal attack. It sentences them to relive the crime every morning as they go through morning sickness, to suffer the agony of labor, and to raise and care for a child that resulted from a brutal personal violation.

A third of women either make that choice or have it forced on them. Perhaps they make peace with their predicament, or find some way not to blame the rapist. Or they may not realize they are pregant until it's too late. Or, given that the majority of these cases were adolescents, and many were assaulted by a relative, the stigma of parental consent laws may put up too high a barrier.

Half of women choose not to carry their rapists' genes to the next generation. They may choose to have children by choice down the line. An abortion is not an abdication of reproductive ability, it does represent a way of exercising control, control which rape – among other things – takes away.

Women who are raped in South Dakota, even women raped by a father or a brother, cannot have a legal abortion. Perhaps they'll find some pharmaceutical solution, or a back alley operation with the infamous coat hanger may compound their violation. If they're lucky, the amateurish procedures won't cause internal bleeding, toxic shock, or infection, and their attempt to end the legacy of a crime committed against them won't wind up killing them. If they're lucky, they'll find a way to put it behind them.

There is no coherent way to write a rape exemption into a law. If you require a conviction before the abortion, you rely on the ability of the police to find the perpetrator and the ability of the prosecutor to make the crime stick. You rely on a jury not to think (as too many people do) that you can't get pregnant from rape. And you rely on the investigation and trial taking less than 9 months (and realistically, less than 6 months, since third trimester abortions are tricky for everyone involved).

If you require a police report alleging rape, you invite false accusations of rape from women in desperate circumstances. And if you require only that the women tell the doctor they were raped, the rape exemption becomes a larger loophole than anything that people can find in Roe or Casey.

And so, unless you want rape victims to have to relive their rape in many different ways, the resolution reached in Roe is the best available option, and parental notification laws should be viewed with skepticism.