From the November-December 2022 issue of News & Letters
by Terry Moon
Jessica Valenti is the author of the podcast “Abortion, Every Day,” which is a fabulous write-up and survey of what’s happening every day on abortion. It’s a gift for all of us who are concerned about women’s freedom, including our bodily autonomy without which freedom is not possible. One thing she’s been hammering home is how the so-called “exceptions” for rape and incest to draconian abortion bans are a cruel joke, and a means to make rabid anti-abortion Republicans appear “reasonable.”
As Valenti says: “…abortion exceptions are a lie: A political tool that’s more about helping Republicans’ public image than making abortion accessible to victims.” They pass abortion bans knowing those they supposedly represent don’t want them, and then pretend to “compromise” by promising “exceptions” that no woman can actually access. We’ve seen this being played out even where the “exception” is for the “health” of the pregnant person.
But it is not an exception when the women who need abortions or they will die have to become so sick that doctors can be sure that they will die, without that abortion. These laws have been written in such a way that doctors are afraid to give a woman an abortion no matter if she may die, was raped or is ten years old.
The “exceptions” are impossible because they have draconian requirements, such as reporting a rape to law enforcement in a certain number of days, because we know that all women lie about being raped. Only one out of three rapes are reported to police, who to this day often blame the woman, think she’s lying, or just never really investigate. If it ever goes to trial—and very few of them do—too often it is the woman who ends up being interrogated, her reputation likely destroyed.
Valenti points out that the rape exceptions being debated in South Carolina “require victims not just to report their attack, but to have an abortion in the earliest days of their pregnancy…[T]hat’s especially difficult for those who need to raise money…take time off work, or—for women and girls who have been traumatized—come to terms with the fact that they’re pregnant at all.”
Incest is even harder. Do these Republicans realistically expect children who become pregnant from being raped by a relative to come forward before they’re too far along to get an abortion in a state that has an abortion ban? No, they don’t. Not only are many incest victims too young to understand the ramifications of what is happening, or to understand that they are pregnant, but often they care about the person raping them and they certainly see them as a figure of authority over them.
These laws were designed this way on purpose. Republicans now touting bans are liars. As this is being published before the election, we can only hope that voters see through Republican lies about meaningless “exceptions” and vote the misogynist bullies out of office.