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.

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Yet Another Rape Apologist in a Position of Power

It’s been a banner year for rape in the media, and apparently December just felt left out. Joining the likes of:

  • Todd “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down” Akin (outgoing Rep, R-Missouri);1
  • Paul “forcible rape” Ryan (2012 GOP VP candidate);2
  • Chuck “I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by rape” Winder (Senator, R-Idado);3
  • Whoopi “I know it wasn’t rape-rape” Golberg;4
  • Richard “I think that even with life begins in the horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen” Mourdock (Senate candidate, R-Indiana);5
  • Tom, I’ll just clarify to reporters that having a baby out of wedlock is a situation similar to becoming pregnant from rape, Smith (Senate candidate, R-PA);6
  • Steve, the 11-year-old gang rape victim was “like the spider and the fly. Wasn’t she saying ‘come in to my parolor, said the spider to the fly,” Taylor, arguing the girl was “the reason that 20 teenagers and adult men raped a child on videotape;7
  • Rogar “some girls rape so easy” Rivard (Rep, R-Wisconsin);8

is Orange County Superior Court judge Derek Johnson, who said that the following litany of amazing things when refusing a heavier sentence for a man convicted of rape by a jury of his peers:

I spent my last year and a half in the D.A.’s office in the sexual assault unit. I know something about sexual assault. I’ve seen women who have been ravaged and savaged whose vagina was shredded by the rape. I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case. That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it’s an insult. I think it trivializes rape.9

Of course, in some ways it’s unfair to lump Johnson in with the above quotes, because his ruling actually happened in 2008. That’s okay, though – there’s an awful lot of horrible that’s been spouted off in the past, too, and he’s just clearly gravitating towards his own:

  • Stephen “rape causes women to ‘secrete a certain secretion’” Freind (1988 Rep, R-PA);10
  • Henry “the facts show that people who are raped–who are truly raped–the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree this is a rarity, if ever” Aldridge (1995 Rep, R-NC);11
  • Clayton “if ‘[rape] is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it” Williams (1990 Texas Republican gubernatorial nominee);12
  • James Leon “concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami” Holms (Federal Judge, 1997);13
  • John C. Willke, a physician who was once president of the National Right to Life Committee, whose statement is astonishing and bears repeating in full:

    Finally, factor in what is is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that’s physical trauma. Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle. To get and stay pregnant a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy. So what further percentage reduction in pregnancy will this cause? No one knows, but this factor certainly cuts this last figure by at least 50 percent and probably more.14

People being horrible about rape, since forever.

With thanks to Katie J.M. Baker for her Jezebel post Fuck You, Rape Culture, which served as a comprehensive list of spoken justifications for rape that made the news this year.

  1. It’s Not Shocking That Republican Senate Nominee Thinks Women Can’t Get Pregnant From ‘Legitimate Rape’ []
  2. The Truth About “Redefining” Rape []
  3. Chuck Winder, Idaho Lawmaker, Suggests Women Use Rape As Excuse For Abortions []
  4. Whoopi On Roman Polanski: It Wasn’t ‘Rape-Rape’ []
  5. Richard Mourdock: Rape, pregnancy and God’s plan []
  6. Having a Baby Out of Wedlock is Kind of Like Getting Pregnant from Rape, Says Senate Candidate []
  7. Lawyer likens gang-rape victim to a spider luring men to web []
  8. Rep. Roger Rivard criticized for ‘some girls rape easy’ remark []
  9. State of California, Commission on Judicial Performance []
  10. Freind’s Rape-pregnancy Theory Refuted []
  11. Lawmaker Says Rape Can’t Cause Pregnancy []
  12. Texas Candidate’s Comment About Rape Causes a Furor []
  13. In Judicial Twist, Republicans Seen Stalling Bush Pick []
  14. Rape Pregnancies Are Rare []

When We Know “It’s a Catholic Country” Isn’t An Excuse

A severely ill woman is admitted to the hospital. Doctors assess that without an abortion, she will die.

Oh, you think this is about Savita Halappanavar, don’t you?

Well, it is and it isn’t. Savita Halappanavar is a horrific story making the rounds now; a young woman admitted to an Irish hospital was suffering a miscarriage but told that doctors couldn’t perform an abortion until after the foetal heartbeat ceased, even though the pregnancy was clearly ending (as Ms. Halappanavar was fully dilated and her water had broken; at 17 weeks there is no way the foetus could have been delivered and survived). Why couldn’t the doctors perform this medically necessary procedure – one that is actually allowed, in the Republic of Ireland, if there is a real and substantive risk to the life of the mother?1 Well, according to staff at University Hospital Galway, because Ireland “is a Catholic country.” So instead of performing a medically necessary procedure, doctors, nurses and medical staff at Galway Hospital watched as Savita Halappanavar suffered for over two days before the foetus died. At this point, they evacuated her uterus – and it was too late. Septicaemia had set in; three days later, Ms. Halappanavar suffered multiple organ failure and died.

That takes us back to the severely ill woman who was admitted to the hospital in December of 2009. A Catholic hospital in Arizona, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. This young woman was 11 weeks pregnant and suffering from pulmonary hypertension. Sister Margaret McBride was the on-call member of the hospital ethics committee, and part of the care team that approved the abortion necessary to save this young woman’s life, even though abortions are not typically performed at Catholic hospitals.2

A Catholic nun at a Catholic hospital was able to make the decision that the living, breathing, suffering woman in front of her should not die because of a fatal complication of pregnancy. She did this even though the hospital guidelines specifically forbid abortion even to save the life of the mother3 Guidelines that are more strict than those in the Republic of Ireland. And while Sister McBride was automatically excommunicated under the Catholic concept of latae sententiae, she was also returned to a member in good standing of both the Catholic Church and her religious order.

So then, this isn’t about Savita Halappanavar or that unnamed Arizona woman; this is about that medical team. This is wondering: what is the excuse of every single member of the medical team at University Hospital Galway? I think at this point, we’re all waiting.

  1. Other sources via Wikipedia, sorry: Charleton, Peter; McDermott, Paul Anthony; Bolger, Marguerite (1999). Criminal law. Dublin: Butterworths. p. 518 and Herring, Jonathan (2012). Medical law and ethics (4th ed. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 308. []
  2. And, in fact, the hospital eventually lost their Catholic affiliation over this choice, because they refused to agree to never perform abortions again, placing the health and well-being of the pregnant woman over obsolete and medically inaccurate Catholic doctrine. []
  3. As noted here. []

Lies, Damned Lies, and Mehdi Hasan on Abortion

I got really annoyed this morning. I woke up, and basically the first thing I saw on Twitter was numerous retweets and comments about a HuffPo UK article on abortion and social progressives attempting to argue that one could be socially progressive and still advocate for an anti-choice position.

I disagree, rather vehemently. To the tune of almost 3000 words, give or take, as I basically deconstructed the author’s entire argument in an attempt to show not only why it was wrong, but obnoxiously so. With thanks to Nicholas G. Evans, Catherine Flick, and Laura Northrup, all of whom provided feedback and helped to focus my irritation into coherence.

Without furtherOkay, with slightly further ado: yes, this piece was picked up and published, in edited form, on Comment is Free in The Guardian.

Now, really, without further ado,…

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