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Why Exceptions to Abortion Bans Don't Always Work

I am overwhelmed with all the abortion talk since the ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. I had an abortion when I was 17. I was pregnant as the result of incest. It is one of the lowest parts of my life. I was alone in my trauma and there was no support in sight. I went into myself and just buried the memory of it all. I do not remember all the details of how it all transpired. I just know I was pregnant, and my parents took care of it.

I cannot imagine what would have happened if my abuser did not have access to an abortion for me. Certainly, he was not going to alert the authorities of what he had done. He could not be found out. I assume they could have suggested that I had sex with some boy, and he impregnated me. They could have found an off the book’s abortion somewhere. They could have done something to harm me to cause me to lose the fetus. I can only guess to what lengths they would have gone to keep their secret.

For me, I would have lost my scholarship to college that I was starting in two months. I would have stayed home possibly and raised my child in an environment that was abusive. My child could have had health issues because of the familial DNA match. My abuse would have continued. I would be another unwed mother with the scorn of the community around her.

The so-called “incest and rape exceptions” with recently enacted abortion laws

Now everyone is talking about abortions, with even anti-abortion and pro-choice commercials on television (they are driving me “crazy”). There is no escape. There seems to be no end in sight. I am going to have to find a way to cope.

For me, after Roe was struck down, the hardest thing is the knowing that abortion is now pretty much inaccessible for those who experience rape or incest.

Some of the states are outright banning all abortions for any reason. Some are making exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. This sounds on the surface noble, but this in no way guarantees an abortion because of rape or incest.

Incest reporting data

What abuser is going to admit they raped their 11-year-old daughter and allow her to have an abortion?

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates “incest occurs in over 10 percent of American families, yet only 20 percent of these offenses are reported. It is reported and is very obvious that the crime often goes unreported because the abuse is initiated by someone the child, usually a girl, loves and trusts.”

Rape and reporting

Rape victims immediately after the rape are dealing with a whole host of emotions and experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may not be able to think about reporting or about checking to see if they are now pregnant in the first six weeks.

The U.S. Department of Justice also reports that most rapes and sexual assaults were not reported to the police.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings, the reasons for not reporting to law enforcement authorities when victims of rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault did not report the crime to the police, the most often cited reason was that the victimization was a personal matter: victims see rape as a personal matter 23% of the time, fear of reprisal 16% of the time, and police bias 5% of the time.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he is going to end rape and incest in Texas to justify Texas’s radical new abortion law, and its no exceptions for rape and incest. The Austin American Statesman paper quoted Gregg Abbott saying they “will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.” I doubt he can do this or has any intention of trying to.

Abbott further said that they will be “aggressively going out and arresting [rapists] and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”

That sounds noble, but Texas has a backlog of rape kits and the rape would have already happened, therefore not preventing it.

Not accessible after all

The laws are unclear and do not say how to prove you have been raped and some require you to make a police report, turning in your lover, parent, friends’ father, priest and so on. Which seems like an insurmountable hurdle.

Some states that have rape or incest exceptions in their abortion bans, according to POLITICO “that while the law may allow people to terminate their pregnancy in those instances, it will likely be easier to get patients across state lines for an abortion than try to clear the hurdles associated with obtaining one legally in their home state.”

Basically, there is no access for abortions. Even if you meet the criteria for an exception that does not mean there will be a doctor or clinic in your state to do it. There is no exception. You are out of luck, especially if you are poor and cannot travel to a state with more lenient laws.

Now What?

What can we/I do about it?

  • Vote for politicians who support laws that give everyone who can get pregnant access to an abortion.
  • Donate to help women in poverty access abortions.
  • Join the school board and vote for responsible sex education in schools.
  • Talk to your circles about abortion and why it is important to protect the right (be clear this Supreme Court is coming for all marginalized people).
  • Organize inclusive actions that lead to changed minds and policies.
  • Educate yourself about the abortion laws, how they are made and how you can influence policy making.
  • We can raise our boys in a way that they avoid displaying toxic masculinity and acting on it.
  • Men can hold each other accountable in the way they talk about women and how they approach relationships with women.

It is not too late

Now is not the time to throw in the towel and give up hope. We need to support each other and pick up and take action to make change. Our policy makers on both sides need to be called to account. They have a responsibility to protect our rights and we need to make sure they do.

Shore up your Mighty cape and forge ahead; we can do this.

Getty image by Robin Gentry

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