Earlier this week, Indiana state representative Eric Turner (R) achieved the impressive feat of denying women’s reproductive rights and perpetuating a victim-doubting rape culture, both at the same time! As Indiana’s House prepared to vote on a severely restrictive anti-abortion bill, Turner argued that if exceptions were allowed for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, “someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest.” Like the mistrust of women that rears its head virtually every time a well-liked celebrity or politician is accused of rape, Turner’s “concern” rests on (and serves to perpetuate) an all-too-prevalent notion that women are prone to simply inventing rape stories on a whim, especially where the potential exists for personal gain—whether that “gain” is a massive financial settlement from a star athlete or access to an abortion (which should have been freely available in the first place). The reality, of course, is that rape is incredibly underreported, not over reported. And with men like Turner speaking out on the issue, it’s not difficult to see why. This is exactly the kind of rhetoric that silences women, that leads them to fear ever coming forward with rape allegations in the first place because of the likelihood that they will be shamed, ridiculed, or just plain disbelieved.
What we are dealing with are two sides of the same coin: one which mistrusts women to tell the truth, and the other which mistrusts us with the ability to make our own reproductive choices. If nothing else, Turner managed to quite successfully demonstrate how interconnected the two issues are. Silencing the voices of victims and restricting our access to abortion are both ways of maintaining a status quo in which our bodies are not our own. And it is, unfortunately, a status quo which does not appear to be shifting anytime soon: Indiana’s House voted by an overwhelming majority in favor of the anti-choice bill, and rejected the amendment that would have allowed for rape and incest exceptions.