A Question for Anti-Choicers: How, Exactly, Would Your Rape Exception Work?


There is much discussion these days of banning abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. Setting aside the issue of whether this can possibly be true given the right’s support for “personhood” amendments, I want the right to explain what the process would be to seek an exception from a ban on abortion.

If efforts to criminalize abortion succeeded, would it be a medical, legal, or theological authority that would make the determination as to whether a woman qualified to have the banned procedure? If I was raped, would I have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, or might a preponderance of the evidence standard suffice? Would I make my case to a doctor? A judge? A police officer? An ethics committee?

And on what basis would the appointed entity make the decision? The embrace by many politicians of an exception for the life but not the health of the patient would presumably require legislation that would then leave authorities in the position to determine, for example, whether a delay in beginning cancer treatment would be considered a threat to my life or merely a risk to my health.

And how would the exception-seeking process work in an emergency? Reports from doctors seeking to comply with the Catholic Healthcare Directives suggest not well:

I’m on call when she gets septic, and she’s septic to the point that I’m pushing pressors on labor and delivery trying to keep her blood pressure up, and I have her on a cooling blanket because she’s 106 degrees. And I needed to get everything out. And so I put the ultrasound machine on and there was still a heartbeat, and [the ethics committee] wouldn’t let me because there was still a heartbeat. This woman is dying before our eyes. She was so sick she was in the [intensive care unit] for about 10 days and very nearly died. Her bleeding was so bad that the sclera, the white of her eyes, were red, filled with blood…

Imagine if this doctor also needed to comply with a statute and seek the approval of a governmental authority while his patient was “dying before [his] eyes.” Would he need to get an emergency court order or is the idea that the legislated “exceptions” would work as a defense should he be sanctioned or prosecuted for having performed an abortion without approval or sufficient cause?

The nebulousness of the exception concept is also relevant to the debate over the contraceptive coverage mandate. Opponents of the HHS mandate claim they are not opposed to insurance coverage for contraception in general, but only when it is used to prevent pregnancy. So what they want is an inquiry into the reasons my doctor writes me a prescription and the authority to rule on whether it is justified.

Will someone please explain how this inquiry would work? Congressman Paul Ryan? Cardinal Dolan? Anybody? We don’t know what conditions would qualify for treatment, how severe they must be, what evidence would be required, and to whom we would make our cases for treatment. To my boss? My plan administrator? A priest? Would there be an appeals process? Insurance plans and health facilities that currently purport to have health exceptions demonstrate that they just don’t work and have harmed women. Given that this problem has received national attention but opponents of contraception have offered no solutions, it seems they are fine with the occasional woman taking prescription painkillers unnecessarily or losing her ovary.

Existing “exceptions” to prohibitions on insurance coverage for abortion don’t work either. Many women who have been raped are currently paying for their abortions out of pocket. We can expect that if abortion is outlawed, even with exceptions, some women will be forced by the state to carry unwanted pregnancies that result from rape to term.

The right wing regularly argues we need less government because government doesn’t do much right. We need to know why and how they think government could be an effective arbiter of whether my particular circumstances are dire enough to justify my contraceptive use or my being exempted from an abortion ban. I find the proposition that I might not be entitled to make these medical decisions myself dehumanizing, but if that is the world I live in, I would at least like to know the specifics.

No politician or pundit should get away with claiming he supports any “exception” without facing the obvious follow-up question: “How would it work?”

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  • walford
    The issue is being set up as if there were a one-size-fits all solution. Indeed, that is how it is settled now — even though the American people have widely varying views, which are not being accommodated or allowed for.
     
    From my blog:
     
    Republicans object to controversial social issues like these being settled in the courts, understanding that the American people are divided and that their perspectives change over time. Law should only be made in the legislatures by our elected representatives, subject to revision and review.

     

    In that arena, we can debate whether unlimited abortion and contraception are actually in women’s interests [as well as society at large] and whether it is proper to force people to go against their conscience and/or religious principles — in direct contravention of the First Amendment to the Constitution — by paying for these things.

     

    It is clear, however that there is a cadre in the Democrat Party that considers some issues to be too important to be subject to a popular mandate. They prefer that a non-elected coterie of berobed Philosopher Kings settle the issue once and for all.

    So which party is actually “pro-choice” and which is not?

  • prochoiceferret

    The issue is being set up as if there were a one-size-fits all solution. Indeed, that is how it is settled now — even though the American people have widely varying views, which are not being accommodated or allowed for.

     

    I don’t remember anyone arguing that everyone must have an abortion. But I’ve certainly heard quite a few people in power argue forcefully that no one should be able to have an abortion…

     

    From my blog:   Republicans object to controversial social issues like these being settled in the courts, understanding that the American people are divided and that their perspectives change over time.

     

    So did Republicans object to Brown v. Board of Education?

     

    Law should only be made in the legislatures by our elected representatives, subject to revision and review.

     

    What happens when those laws violate the statutory and constitutional rights of people?

     

    In that arena, we can debate whether unlimited abortion and contraception are actually in women’s interests [as well as society at large] and whether it is proper to force people to go against their conscience and/or religious principles — in direct contravention of the First Amendment to the Constitution — by paying for these things.

     

    I’ve got a better idea: We can debate whether “paying for these things” is in any way equivalent to “forcing people to go against their conscience and/or religious principles — in direct contravention of the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

     

    Oh, wait a second—the U.S. Supreme Court already decided that, back in 1982. Never mind, then.

     

    It is clear, however that there is a cadre in the Democrat Party that considers some issues to be too important to be subject to a popular mandate. They prefer that a non-elected coterie of berobed Philosopher Kings settle the issue once and for all.

     

    No, I think what they prefer is that we remain a constitutional democracy, with judicial review.

     

    So which party is actually “pro-choice” and which is not?

     

    It depends on whether by “choice” you mean “the freedom for me to make my choice” or “the freedom for me to make your choice.”

  • crowepps

    Pro-Choice is not a conflict between those who want Judges to force everybody to do things one way and those who want legislatures to force everybody to do things one way and those who want ‘Philosopher Kings’ to force everybody to do things one way.  Pro-Choice is the position that the American people have widely varying views and that the best to accommodate and allow for that is to let each person make their own individual decision.

    The decision as to what limits are appropriate on abortion and contraception should be made by the women involved in those decisions individually, and the costs of both should be included in insurance policies and safety net programs in exactly the same way that other medical expenses are handled, because in a society with religious freedom for individuals, while people certainly cannot be forced to go against their conscience and/or religious principles by being *required* to abort or use contraception, or by being *required* to physically participate in providing either, there is nothing in First Amendment religious freedom protection that allows a person to impose their personal religious tenets on others.  If an employer provides $X for insurance, it is up to the employee what needs those premium dollars will cover.  To assert otherwise is to argue that an employer has a right to control whether the $X in a paycheck can be spent for birth control, or liquor, or cigarettes, or porn magazines.  Employment compensation is money paid for work, not a leash by which employers can invade the personal lives of employees, their wives and daughters, and control their reproductive choices.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    “…a cadre in the Democrat Party that considers some issues to be too important to be subject to a popular mandate. They prefer that a non-elected coterie of berobed Philosopher Kings settle the issue once and for all….”

    But you’re demanding that a corrupt cadre of non-elected adulterous, wife-dumping theothug racists like Dinesh D’Souza and pedophile RCC clergy override America’s First Amendment pro-contraception majority mandate to impose bankrupting and deadly incubating slavery on all American women!

  • give-em-hell-mary

    And I’ll bet you’re OK with forcing me to pay for your adulterous Viagra (which often results in abortions!).

  • colleen

    In that arena, we can debate whether unlimited abortion and contraception are actually in women’s interests [as well as society at large] and whether it is proper to force people to go against their conscience and/or religious principles

    No, you can keep your absurd religion out of our lives. I don’t believe there is a ‘conscience’ worth anything within the entire religious right/GOP coalition. The notion that we should be taking instruction from the moral pigmies of the Republican party is  absurd.

  • thalwen

    You have a very poor understanding of our system of government. I suggest some basic government textbooks from your local library or Schoolhouse Rock or something.

    See, we have a Constitutional federal republic. Legislatures at the state, local and federal level make laws. The Executve branch implements those laws and the Judicial branch reviews laws to make sure they comply with the Constitution. (again I suggest a basic government book to clear these things up for you.)

    Yes, some things are not up to a popular vote and I’m sure you’re happy with those things as long as they apply to the things you like protected. I don’t know what if any religious affiliation you have, but if you’re a Catholic or Mormon, would you be in favour of your right to worship as you like, hold the beliefs that you have, be able to hold office while believing in your faith all be up to a popular vote? Would you like to be working for an employer who can dictate what you can do with your salary and insurance coverage? Lets say you’re having a severe alergic reaction to pork or shellfish, would you like your doctor or employer to deny you life-saving treatment because they have a genuine religious belief that eating those things is an abomination? 

    Would you like government to be able to deny you the right to a jury because the legislatured decided to pass a law eliminating juries in an effort to save costs? And while you’re awaiting trial, would you like a fair bail and freedom from torture and a reasonable sentence if you’re found guilty? You don’t have to worry about any of those things because you have Constitutional protections.

    So while you might oppose other people having rights, you really should be happy that they have those rights because it means you have them too. 

  • cmarie

    When they say they want to “provide abortion for rape victims”  I don’t think they’re thinking of abortion in a clinic but emergency contraception in the emergency room.  That’s what they mean not to oppose.  The idea being that the rape victim will have any possible pregnancy terminated several weeks before a pregnancy resulting from consentual sex would have been.  However, surely no medicine is 100% effective, there are bound to be patients who for medical reasons cannot take EC and unfortunately not every rape victim ever even goes to the emergency room so some pregnancies will still result. 

  • jennifer-starr

    Except that EC is NOT an abortion by any stretch of the imagination, CMarie.  It’s birth control. 

  • cmarie

    that’s fine   regardless…. I’m pretty sure that’s what they mean

     

  • cmarie

    ps congrats on the A+ grade from your boss.

     

  • jennifer-starr

    Regardless?  No. This is not a matter of opinion, it is a fact.  EC does not in any way cause an abortion. And any politician who’s dimwitted enough to think so has no business trying to legislate matters regarding reproduction.  End of story. 

     

    Regarding the PS–what boss?  

  • ack

     

    In that arena, we can debate whether unlimited abortion and contraception are actually in women’s interests [as well as society at large]

     

    The benefits of “unlimited contraception” are, quite frankly, only under debate if you don’t belive in science. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about individual women, women as a group, or society (which includes people who identify as girls, boys, women, men, or none of those). The benefits are clear, and it’s too late in the day for me to list the multitude of studies supporting that fact. And it’s a fact. This isn’t opinion. For instance, for every $1 we spend on family planning programs, we save $4 in later costs. Look into the St. Louis study, where women were given free long term reversible contraception (read: expensive) and their rates of unplanned pregnancy plummeted.

     

    As for “unlimited abortion,” well, abortion is going to happen whether it’s legal or not. 90% of abortions occur in the first trimester. Abortions that happen later than that generally occur because women didn’t know they were pregnant, had trouble getting the resources together to procur an abortion (money, transportation, time off work, child care, etc…) or something went terribly wrong with the pregnancy. And do you really, honestly believe that the government has the right to compel you to give me a kidney or a lobe of a lung if I need it and you’re a perfect match? Please think about how ridiculous the legal system would find that argument. You have the right to bodily autonomy; pregnant women do, too.

     

    whether it is proper to force people to go against their conscience and/or religious principles — in direct contravention of the First Amendment to the Constitution — by paying for these things.

     

    The contraception mandate requires insurance companies, not religious organizations, to cover contraception. Please remember that women pay into these plans, and that contraception is the single most commonly prescribed drug for women of reproductive age. Now, if you believe that no one with religious beliefs should be required to subsidize behavior they consider immoral, please approach your legislature with a suggestion that employees should sign an affadavit that they aren’t using their wages to pay for rent if they’re cohabitating but unmarried if the employer has a religious objection. And that those wages can’t be used for alcohol, drugs, tobacco, clingy dresses, or tight v-necked shirts for dudes. Or DVDs of Magic Mike. (Blu-Ray!) Or Avatar, because aliens don’t fit with people’s religions.

     

    It is clear, however that there is a cadre in the Democrat Party that considers some issues to be too important to be subject to a popular mandate. They prefer that a non-elected coterie of berobed Philosopher Kings settle the issue once and for all.


    To echo Ferret, like Brown v. Board of Education?



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • ack

    cmarie, I don’t think that’s what they mean. Anti-abortion rights folks who support exceptions for rape, incest (which is usually rape), and life of the woman are pretty clear about the designation. They’re not talking about EC (which isn’t abortion, even if they think it is); they have a different conversation about EC that usually centers around pharmacies and ERs. Often, the people who make exceptions for abortion in rape cases are completely in favor of clauses allowing pharmacists and ERs to deny EC. (Please see the stalled efforts to require ERs to provide rape victims with EC in AZ as well as other states.) So what they’re saying (and I agree it doesn’t make sense, but I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what they say) is that a rape victim arriving at a hospital or pharmacy can be denied EC, but then should be able to obtain an abortion (at her own cost, travel time, child care cost, and time off work) if she becomes pregnant later.

     

    The ridiculousness is that if ERs and pharmacies were required to provide EC to anyone who wanted it, those victims might not wind up pregnant at all.

     

    And then, we wind up in the tangle of how we figure all that out. For instance, most of the rape victims I’ve spoken to didn’t go to the ER. They were scared, didn’t want to file a report, DEFINITELY didn’t want to get naked in front of a stranger, and didn’t know they could ask for a special nurse and an advocate. So… for those women, who never filed a report, never got an exam, and maybe told a friend (if anyone) about what happened, how do they “prove” they were raped in order to obtain the abortion? About 30% of sexual assaults are reported to the police (see http://www.rainn.org for stats on sexual assualts and perpetrators), and in my experience, those victims aren’t thinking, “I should report this in case I get pregnant and need an abortion.” We’re already trying to force women and girls on Medicaid to think about that. It’s despicable. Most of the victims who are actually eligible for Medicaid funded abortions never receive them.

     

    The exceptions aren’t about women, girls, or victimization. They’re about politics, and about those politicians/activists going to bed at night not feeling terrible about themselves. In my opinion, their beliefs should keep them up all night.

     

  • crowepps

    You know, where a virginal school girl on her way to Sunday School is dragged into an alley by a monstrous pervert and beaten half to death?  She might be allowed to get an abortion (although of course first she would be pressured to ‘give life’ instead by considering adoption) but that wouldn’t be considered for all those promiscuous co-eds who get raped at fraternity parties or after the date-rape drug has knocked them unconscious, because that’s not ‘real’ rape, when it’s her own fault for not staying home praying, and/or she probably just changed her mind in the morning.

    You just don’t get this — the whole PURPOSE of women is having babies, there’s no other reason women should exist, conservative men would be much MUCH happier if they all IQ’s of 80 so they wouldn’t argue, and so it’s totally and completely illogical to allow ANY woman to avoid pregnancy.  Women are livestock, for riding and breeding.  If they aren’t good looking enough for the first or healthy enough for the second, why allow them to use up air, space, food, education or employment that men could be using instead?  So far as conservative men are concerned, no point in keeping them alive when there’s lots of other women men can use instead.

  • ack

    Do you think it’s possible you’re giving them too much credit? 

  • crowepps

    Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said pregnancies resulting from rape are part of God’s plan, tearfully explaining that he only supports abortions when a mother’s life is in danger.

    “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during Tuesday’s Senate debate, choking up.

    http://news.yahoo.com/gop-senate-candidate-god-intended-pregnancies-rape-061057785–abc-news-politics.html