Forcing Rape Victims to Give Birth? New Mexico Has a Novel Approach


We’ve already been forewarned that 2013 will be the year of forcing rape victims impregnated through the most profound violation to give birth against their will. A new campaign to push for elimination of the rape exception in the Hyde Amendment was announced earlier this week. Not content to strong arm only poor women, one New Mexico legislator has a new law that could force all women and girls impregnated by rape to give birth to their rapist’s child.

Declare the fetus “evidence.”

According to Laura Bassett at Huffington Post, New Mexico State Legislator Cathrynn Brown has proposed a bill that would allegedly charge those who were sexually assaulted and sought out an abortion with a felony for “tampering with evidence.”

House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), would charge a rape victim who ended her pregnancy with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”

“Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime,” the bill says.

Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Brown, a mother of five, is a former board member of the local Right to Life of Carlsbad, New Mexico, and a supporter of parental notification for minors seeking abortion, the only abortion-related question asked by the Albuquerque Journal candidate survey during the 2010 election. A member of the judiciary committee, Brown considers editing the Idaho Law Review her “major professional accomplishment.” That she would introduce a bill with such obvious constitutional issues is puzzling to say the least. She says that the bill is meant not to punish the pregnant person, but to “protect her.” 

Brown said in a statement Thursday that she introduced the bill with the goal of punishing the person who commits incest or rape and then procures or facilitates an abortion to destroy the evidence of the crime. “New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders,” said Brown. “By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state.”

How exactly does jailing someone who is a victim of sexual assault, especially younger victims such as incest victims, “protect” them? In some ways, the language heralds back to Dr. John Willke’s Why Can’t We Love Them Both? a book and anti-abortion q&a series from the eighties, where he advised that no one should approve of abortions for victims of sexual assault because it made it too easy to hide the crime. A pregnancy and subsequent child is irrefutable proof of the attack. This is especially true for incest, where he believes pregnancy is the young victim’s purposeful attempt to expose the crime.

[A]bortion is not only is an assault on the young mother, who may well be pregnant with a “love object,” but it may completely fail to solve the original problem. It is also unusual for wisdom to dictate anything but adoptive placement of the baby.

Love object?

When pregnancy does occur, it is often an attempt to end the relationship. In a twisted sort of way, however, the father is a love object. In one study, only 3 of 13 child-mothers had any negative feelings toward him. H. Maisch, Incest, New York: Stein & Day Publishers, 1972

In incest, is pregnancy common?

No. “Considering the prevalence of teenage pregnancies in general, incest treatment programs marvel at the low incidence of pregnancy from incest.” Several reports agree at 1% or less. G. Maloof, “The Consequences of Incest,” The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, University Publications of Amer., 1979, p. 74 245

How does the incest victim feel about being pregnant?

For her, it is a way to stop the incest; a way to unite mother and daughter, a way to get out of the house. Most incestuous pregnancies, if not pressured, will not get abortions.

Of course, that was the eighties. Even if that were true then, there is no problem now with identifying a perpetrator through DNA testing after a termination has been completed.

The bill is unlikely to gain traction, not just due to its extreme and obviously unconstitutional nature. New Mexico has had some of the most progressive laws in the country when it comes to abortions, and neither this nor other abortion-related bills proposed are likely to make it out of committee, according to political experts from the state.

Brown has already felt the heat for her comments, noting that she will now be offering an updated bill that will clarify that the victim of the sexual assault will not be jailed. The New Mexico Telegram reports:

“House Bill 206 was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims,” said Rep. Brown. “Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist—not the victim—would be charged with tampering of evidence. I am submitting a substitute draft to make the intent of the legislation abundantly clear.”

That’s all well and good, but unless the new draft also remove the pesky “facilitating an abortion” language, we are still leaving providers at risk of a potential felony if they provide a rape victim with an abortion.

The assault victim may not be thrown in jail, but the new draft still leaves a woman vulnerable to being forced to carry and give birth to her rapist’s child against her will.

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

Follow Robin Marty on twitter: @robinmarty