They’ve tried scaring rape victims into thinking Mitt Romney will take away their abortions. They’ve falsely attributed a lone politician’s ignorance about rape to the rest of the pro-life movement. They’ve distorted the words of those who defend innocent babies conceived by rape. The left has a fever, and the only prescription is more shameless exploitation of rape for political gain.
At the Huffington Post, Ethan Rome has an editorial recycling the usual narrative: “fanatical fundamentalism … tantamount to violence against women … Todd Akin … revoke access to birth control”…blah blah blah. But amidst the drivel was one bit of fear-mongering I hadn’t heard before:
Isn’t it an act of violence to force a woman to carry to term the child of a rapist who commits an unspeakable act of violence against her — and then to sentence her (in most states) to a lifetime co-parenting the child with her rapist?
Whoa! Pro-lifers want rapists to have parental rights? When did this happen? The link goes to a commentary by Rome’s organization, Health Care for America Now (a far-left advocacy group for socialized medicine), claiming that the “GOP abortion stance would allow more rapists to assert rights to co-parent children conceived in rape”:
Thousands of women all over the country who now can legally end a pregnancy caused by rape would instead be forced to carry the child to term. In most states, that means submitting to the rapist-father’s assertion of paternal rights regarding visitation, religion, education, health care and countless other issues. And this week, the GOP convention will adopt a platform endorsing the no-exceptions abortion plank. Welcome to the GOP’s shocking approach to women’s rights.
It turns out that in 31 states, a woman who carries a rape pregnancy to term has no effective way to block the rapist from asserting his paternal rights over the child he forced on her. In those 31 states, it is not unusual for a rapist to assert his parental rights over his victim’s rape-child, according to lawyer Shauna Prewitt, who wrote a 2010 article about it in the Georgetown Law Journal. The mother will be at risk of spending decades co-parenting with her rapist and encountering him at family events for the rest of their lifetimes. The stakes are enormous for the estimated 25,000 to 32,000 girls and women impregnated by rape each year.
What comes next are a few paragraphs on the nightmare rape victims experience in such situations, then some generalized prattle on how awful and extreme and stupid those nasty Republicans are. What does not come next is any connection of the former to the latter. The piece doesn’t delve into how the current status quo came about or whether Republicans favor parental rights for rapists (maybe that’s because, for instance, HCAN’s political pals had a little to do with that sort of thing in Massachusetts?).
At Mother Jones, Dana Liebelson and Sydney Brownstone explain what’s going on in some of these states. Their piece is worth reading in full, but the gist is that some disgracefully have no protection whatsoever for mothers of rape-conceived children, and the rest have varying degrees of protection, with most of the differences and roadblocks to fuller protection revolving around disagreements over how certain authorities should be of an alleged rapist’s guilt before revoking his parental rights.
The rights of the unborn and the injustice of killing them, even if they were conceived in rape, stand on their own and must be recognized regardless of what a state’s other laws say. The blame for giving rapists access to women and children lies not with those who protect the children, but with those who…well, give rapists access to women and children.
Even so, there’s no reason why a state seriously considering banning rape abortions couldn’t take up the parental rights issue during the course of negotiations over the issue. In fact, pro-lifers should commit to taking up this cause themselves. And while there’s probably some room for legitimate disagreement on the fine print of mechanisms, evidentiary standards, etc., I see no reason why bipartisan agreement couldn’t be reached on some humane, commonsense minimums.
For instance, it seems to me that, at the very least, the standard of evidence necessary to keep the rapist away from his victim and her kids should be lower than the standard necessary to put him away for life (though with some care to ensure that innocent fathers cannot be cut off from their children based on false rape charges) – and fathers should be awarded nothing regarding their children until their rape investigations and trials are completed. And convicted rapists should automatically lose any and all access to the children they sired, period.
Moreover, why isn’t this issue – where women are actually victimized by someone, then subjected to additional, very real suffering by the law – the “War on Women’s” centerpiece? Why aren’t those shouting the loudest about women’s rights and dignity working to stop this, instead of spending all their moral capital on killing babies, forcing contraception on private institutions, and perpetrating pay inequality myths?
If our pro-choice betters decided to put their perpetual indignation to good use for a change and began a campaign to reform the law in these states, the overwhelming majority of pro-lifers and Republicans would join them. It would be a rare moment of actual bipartisan accomplishment for the common good.
Answer: because pro-choicers don’t actually care about women generally, or rape victims in particular, much more than they care about unborn innocents. As we’ve discussed before at great length, pro-choicers are pretty much useless on rape whenever it comes to anything other than pushing abortion. The latest entry on that front, by the way, concerns then-state Sen. Barack Obama in 1999, refusing to support a bill letting sex crime victims have the records of their cases sealed, citing “constitutionality” concerns. Because the guy who brought you ObamaCare is such a stickler for constitutional fidelity. Sandra Fluke, call your office…