Life as an Extreme Sport

Rape Kit vs Abortion – Educating Jodie Laubenberg

One of the first things I saw when I got off the plane in Philadelphia Sunday night, after a trans-Pacific flight, was this statement from Rep. Jodie Laubenberg:

In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out. The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.

This is Laubenberg’s justification for why Texas SB5, which seeks to limit abortion services even further in Texas, including banning abortion after 20 weeks (and currently being filibustered by the amazing Wendy Davis), does not have an exception for rape or incest victims.

I’ve seen a lot of statements that Laubenberg is clearly confused, and a lot of very pointed comments about her lack of knowledge on a subject she seeks to legislate – all of which are true. But what I haven’t seen is the very simple differentiation between a rape kit and an abortion. So here, let me make a tiny contribution to the growing body of evidence that Rep. Laubenberg is in no way qualified to sponsor bills on or otherwise discuss rape kits, abortions, or women’s health issues.

What ia a Rape Kit?
The Denver Post has an awesome graphic, via the US Department of Justice, that goes through what a rape kit is, in some detail. (Click here, or on the graphic, to see a larger image.) The contents of a rape kit. Rape kits will contain envelopes and container for collecting evidence, slides for samples and swabs, evidence tape to properly seal all collected samples, a sexual assault incident report form and permission to collect evidence from the body and clothing of the victim, paper sheets to place under the victim while sheOr he – although in this case, since I am clarifying the difference between a rape kit and an abortion, the focus is on women. Which really, should be another tell for Laubenberg that a rape kit? Not a mini quickie abortion. is examined and undresses, scalpels or scissors to remove clothing, and often a polaroid camera to take immediate pictures of any bruises or trauma. With these tools, forensic evidence is collected from a victim of rape. Here is a training video from a NYS sexual assault nurse examiner on how to properly collect evidence off someone who, as Mariska Hargitay says in her introduction to this clip, is a living, breathing crime scene.

If you will, there is no mention of abortion. That’s because one doesn’t occur here – rape kits are typically within the first 96 hours of an assault, and an embryo does not even implant into the uterine wall until 5-9 days (typically) after conception. At 96-odd hours, the fertilized cells are roughly blastocysts to gastrulas; biologically, the woman is not yet pregnant as the cells have not implanted.This is one of the reason many people so strongly advocate access to Plan B, a “morning after” pill. It is very effective at preventing implantation, thus preventing pregnancy. Note that this is not an abortifacient; if a woman is pregnant – that is, the fertilized cells have implanted into her uterine wall – Plan B will not have an effect.

What is an Abortion?
Abortions come in several types. A medical abortion is a pharmaceutically-incduced abortion. Mifepristone combined with misoprostol is the most commonly used pharmaceutical abortifacient to terminate a first-trimester pregnancy in the United States;Fjerstad, Mary; Sivin, Irving; Lichtenberg, E. Steve; Trussell, James; Cleland, Kelly; Cullins, Vanessa (September 2009). “Effectiveness of medical abortion with mifepristone and buccal misoprostol through 59 gestational days”. Contraception. 80 (3): 282–286. mifepristone is frequently used with a prostaglandin analog in other countries through the second trimester.Kapp, Nathalie; von Hertzen, Helena (2009). “Medical methods to induce abortion in the second trimester”. In Paul, Maureen; Lichtenberg, E. Steve; Borgatta, Lynn; Grimes, David A.; Stubblefield, Phillip G.; Creinin, Mitchell D. (eds.). Management of unintended and abnormal pregnancy : comprehensive abortion care. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 178–192.

In the United States, women in the second trimester of pregnancy have a surgical abortion. The most common form a surgical abortion takes is suction or vacuum aspiration, which does what it sounds: it uses aspiration (suction) to remove the contents of the uterus, including an implanted embryo. You can see a full-scale resolution drawing of the procedure here. Dilation and evacuation or dilation and curettage is the second most common form of surgical abortion, and typically used further along in a pregnancy. In this method, the cervix is dilated and then the uterine contents (endometrium and embryo) are gently scooped out with a curette.

From her language, it is clear that Laubenberg somehow believes that the swabs and samples taken during a rape kit equates one form of surgical abortion, where the woman is “cleaned out” via the… really absorbent swabs? (It’s hard to know where to go with it when you actually have any idea what you’re talking about.) From the data above, it should be clear that Laubenberg knows so little of what she speaks, she should not be allowed to legislate on the topic. Rape kits are for collecting evidence to prosecute a rape.And sadly, are horrifically backlogged in processing. They are not, and never have been, abortion kits, and do nothing to “clean out” a woman.