Opinion

House halts vote on 20-week ban over rape exception

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If you were looking forward to the U.S. House of Representatives voting on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, you’ll be disappointed to know that you’re going to have to wait. And if you were happy with the bill as it was, that may be too bad.

Despite earlier reporting from Politico that House leaders were sticking to a vote on Thursday, an updated piece now reports that the vote will not take place after all. The dispute had been over rape language in the bill.  Instead, a vote will take place prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion.

While such a replacement vote is encouraging all on its own, the move from GOP leadership certainly seems like a betrayal. And while it may have seemed harsh before to question if Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) is a “pro-choice mole” and wonder about what side she’s on, it all seems a lot more warranted now.

An exception for rape and incest was in the bill. In order for a rape victim to have an abortion, she would have had to report the crime to the authorities, which was hotly disputed.

That the bill had exceptions at all made it imperfect from the start for those who are pro-life without exception, but such a requirement may have existed as a sort of middle ground. Especially with polls suggesting that many Americans take a position on favoring abortion in limited circumstances, the bill would have been more likely to pass. That’s all understandable. But this standstill could prevent considerable efforts from taking place.

Politico had reported on the debate over the bill last week, when it became news that congresswomen from both parties were taking issue with the bill.

The piece mentioned that “[t]he Justice Department estimates that only 32 percent of rape victims report their rapes to authorities.” It also included statements from Democratic congresswomen:

Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said it was “unconscionable” to force rape victims to formally report the rape before seeking an abortion.

“Forcing women to go on-the-record about such a traumatic experience as a prerequisite to getting help is unconscionable, and adds to the pain of women who are survivors of rape or incest,” the two Democrats said in a statement.

What is “unconscionable” is that women are raped at all, and that such a small percentage feel comfortable reporting it. I know that reporting rape can be a daunting experience, but the focus needs to be on calling on the authorities to be more sensitive and understanding. A better environment would be the real definition of “getting help,” not aborting the unborn child, who is also a victim.
If rape victims really want an abortion, reporting the crime could be an incentive, and perhaps the attacker could be prevented from victimizing other women.
And having to prove one was a victim of a crime is not unheard of. Rebecca Kiessling, who was conceived from rape and was a victim of assault herself, writes of her experience:

… I saw the reality that my clients who really were abused had a difficult time with the court system because of these other women who were ruining it for the real victims.

After learning my front tooth would have to be pulled, an expert in cosmetic dentistry offered to restore my smile for free, as part of the Give Back A Smile Program for victims of domestic violence, through the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. The bridge and eight teeth with porcelain veneers would have likely cost me around $20,000 to have done by this expert in advanced cosmetic dentistry. Hence, the program had to ensure that there wasn’t fraud. I had to have a certification from a domestic violence counselor that I’d spent time with her, that she believed my claim was legitimate, and that I’d been out of the relationship for at least one year. Was this because these people who wanted to help restore my smile were really misogynist wife-beaters themselves who heartlessly mistrusted a victim’s story? No, of course not! This is the result of women who have cried wolf – and I got scrutinized.

Another issue that is “unconscionable” is that if a rape victim who becomes pregnant does not have an abortion, she faces sharing parental rights with her rapist. This isn’t some third-world country we’re talking about; this is the reality for 31 states in the United States of America.
Live Action News recently featured an update on a brave 13-year-old who had been raped and chose to raise her son. Ashley, from Indiana, lives in a state where her rapist, who even attended the same school as her for a time, could have rights.
If legislators really want to help women who have suffered from rape, they need not focus on abortion. An abortion after rape has its own issues, as testified to by real women. Instead, Democrats and Republicans can come together, at the state and national level, and protect rape victims and their children by cutting off all parenting rights from the rapist. Politicians could also encourage a more welcoming environment for victims to feel more comfortable about reporting attacks.
Rep. Ellmers and others may not have meant to shut down the bill completely, and she may still be pro-life in some semblance, but it is quite possible they did the movement more harm than good. I have talked before about compromising. And you can certainly do so without compromising your values. But the current issues with this bill may do just that. Such issues alienate  pro-life voters and politicians alike, show weakness to our enemy, and appease no one.
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