S.C. Senator: Fetuses Are “Victims,” Women Who Have Been Sexually Assaulted, Not

It’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week, and in South Carolina, a debate is raging in the legislature as to who are the real victims of sexual assault — the woman or girl attacked, or a fertilized egg, embryo, fetus created during the assault.

For South Carolina State Senator Kevin Bryant, there’s no question — it’s the “unborn child.”

Via The Columbia State:

The dispute focuses on the definition of “victim.” Supporters, like Bryant, say the unborn child is a victim who has rights that must be protected.

“We’re focusing on the rights and the liberty of an unborn child, and I can’t understand why the life of a child that’s a victim ought to be terminated,” Bryant said.

But critics say barring abortions in the case of rape or incest ignores the rights of the mother — who has already been the victim of a crime.

“They are saying, ‘We don’t care about victims of crime,’” Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg said. “It really penalizes victims for a second time.”

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2012/04/24/3920527/state-health-plan-would-not-pay.html#storylink=cpy

The moratorium on abortions in case of rape would apply only to the women reliant on the state health insurance system: This obviously affects low-income or uninsured pregnant victims of sexual assault who would either have to find the money to pay for an abortion out-of-pocket, or be forced into pregnancy and childbirth, and ultimately to give a baby up for adoption if she doesn’t want to raise her attacker’s child. But Bryant and his colleague don’t see that as any additional punishment for a woman.

Abortion in the case of rape used to be the one exception on which all but the most zealous of anti-choice advocates could find common ground. Now it is becoming one of the most eagerly sought additions for restricting abortions.  Because the only place that anti-choice politicians can actively ban abortions is among the poor, who are forced to use public assistance to receive medical care, and ending rape exceptions are a way to signal their passion for eliminating reproductive rights for all women, no matter how incremental the change.

Rape exceptions used to be a given.  Now, they are increasingly rare.  Can we expect the same change to occur with “life of the mother” exceptions, too?

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact press@rhrealitycheck.org.

Follow Robin Marty on twitter: @robinmarty

  • coralsea

    This is a truly loathsome position on the part of those who are seeking to remove the rape exception.  Would any of these fine folks put their sisters/daughters/mothers through a pregnancy after they have already been through the trauma of rape?  There may be a few who would, twisted souls that they are, but considering how many times I’ve heard supposedly pro-life people make excuses why their daughter had to have an abortion because she was “taken advantage of,” “didn’t know what she was doing,” or “made a mistake,” I doubt that they would.


    I have been a victim of sexual assault, and although I am sure everyone’s feelings are different and everyone’s ability to deal with it at that point in their lives is influenced by many variables, I know that at that point in my life, I probably would have killed myself (really) if I had had to deal with a pregnancy.  It took years to get past the assault!


    Please, religious folk out there, consider what these people are asking of women who have already been violated.  As the story said, the rape exception rule used to be well accepted as a humane alternative to a terrible situation.  Step up and say something, for heaven’s sake!  We do not need zealots–and particularly zealots who appear to be sexist, racist, and classist, and no longer feel they need to hide it one iota–making decisions about women’s bodies!  And I call out the religious folks here because many of the zealots are carrying the flag of religion.  Do you want them representing YOUR faith?

  • mindy-mcindy

    I also have been a victim of sexual assault, unfortunately on more than one occasion. Even though the last assault was almost a decade ago, I still have PTSD from it. Flashbacks and nightmares, sometimes so bad that my wife hears my cry out in my sleep and she has to wake me out of it. I can guarantee you that if I had been impregnated during one of these instances and didn’t have abortion access, I’d either do a DIY abortion or commit suicide.  Forcing me to carry a pregnancy to term would be like being raped another time to me. If a woman wants to carry to term after a rape, then that’s her choice. But to try to force that on a woman is sickening, and it gives carte blanche to a rapist to choose any and every woman he wants to be an incubator. How do they not get how fucked up that is? Would that be good enough for their daughter, wife, sister, mother, niece or aunt? Would they tell them to just suck it up, to grin and bear it? I doubt it. It’s like when Newt Gingrich was asked a few years back if his daughter had an unwanted pregnancy, would he permit her to have an abortion and he said that would be a matter he’d have to discuss privately with his family.

  • littleblue



    consider what these people are asking of women who have already been violated.


    I think that these people really don’t believe women are full human beings.  Not that they look at their female relatives or friends or colleagues directly in this way, they just subscribe to a world view in which women are seen as separate from men; WO-men; inherently different; inherently less.  What makes women, in their eyes, fully female is to want children at all costs – at the expense of their own health and well-being.  Women, after all, are interchangeable because they are all ultimately the same – maternal, nurturing, domesticity-providing, and willingly powerless.  Those that don’t want or aren’t representative of these things aren’t fully female.  Patriarchy-subscribing men and women don’t vilify individual women per se, they vilify female-ness, often under the screed of god and religion to prevent their own powerlessness because powerless is to be emasculated, to be a “fag,” to be “gay,”… to be woman.


    I think the turn to extremism is that (white, Christian) men have found themselves in a reduced position — emasculated, if you will — from all aspects, such as class, race/nationality, socioeconomics, sectarian/religion, politics, that there is a huge backlash and entrenchment so as to set themselves apart from the egalitarian and secular-leaning 21st century reality wherein being (white, Christian) male is not the guarantee of all good things that it used to be.


    One danger of the rape/incest exception to abortion is that:

    a) there is then this perception that rape/incest victims “deserve” abortion, while those others who need/choose abortion for other reasons don’t “deserve or truly need” the service.  It undervalues both those victims who carry to term as well as the “non-victim” women “merely choosing” abortion;

    b) it sets up in the political discourse that, unless one is a victim, the choice for abortion is a “convenience” that then reflects back upon victims that their situation is merely “inconvenient” and isn’t all that burdensome after all.  That’s when you get politicians making staggering decrees, like victims should make lemonade from lemons.


    In the last two years, we’ve gone from making the argument that women are full human beings who have the right to bodily autonomy/integrity to literally running around, waving our hands, just trying to catch up, whining… “but… but… what about… what about the victims….?!?!”…  that this law or that law isn’t fair because of the lack of consideration for rape victims.  We’ve lost decades of progress.





  • purplemistydez

    I sent an email to the senator asking if the state will pay for medical expenses related to the forced pregnancies from incest or rape.  Still haven’t got an answer.

  • julie-watkins

    I watched a DVD where I think the creator obviously was pro-choice, but when the main character gets found out — she just dissolved rather than defend her actions of “helping young girls out who got in trouble”.

    For some reason I thought “Vera Drake” was based on a real case — in the film she goes to court — and I was expecting a “20 years later” followup for the epilog. OK, a lot of the characters were more or less cartoonish … but it urked me that she didn’t fight back and defend herself. Maybe what she did was “illegal” and “not safe”, but the women she helped didn’t have better choices available. If it was based on a historical figure or a composit, that would be one thing. But if it’s mostly fiction, that was the writers choice to portray her (and most other women in the story) as passive. The strongest supportive statements in the film were made by male characters.

  • coralsea

    Littleblue —


    Sadly, I agree with what you have to say about the way proponents of the Patriarchy view women.  I also agree that you are right regarding the danger of saying that rape/incest victims “deserve” abortions, while those who weren’t raped (or don’t say so — I certainly never reported my rape, and I expect that there are women who become pregnant by rape just don’t want to have that discussion, either), don’t deserve them or are in some way morally tainted because they’ve chosen to control their own fertility.  NO ONE should be passing judgment on what a woman does with HER body.  I believe, however, that in some areas, there was funding available (at least at one time) for abortions when rape or incest was involved, although I may be wrong about that (perhaps it’s only in the case of women whose lives are endangered, though).


    It is incredibly sad that, in 2012, we are even having this conversation, considering that abortion is legal.   Women and the men who love them need to stand up (once again) and tell these thugs that if they don’t want an abortion, then they don’t have to have one–but leave our rights alone.