Study shows moral failure of Texas’ abortion ban, which makes no exceptions for rape
Except for rape or incest.
With those five words, the most restrictive abortion law in the nation could have been a little less cruel.
From inception through implementation in September 2021, the Texas law that bans abortion starting at around six weeks of pregnancy and allows anyone to sue someone aiding and abetting an abortion was an unprecedented assault on women’s reproductive rights. The law is so extreme it doesn’t allow an exception for sexual assault.
A study, published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine, estimates about 520,000 vaginal rapes of women ages 15 to 45 happened in 14 states with abortion bans that took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. When those bans took effect varies.
The study further estimates those rapes led to 64,565 pregnancies. Texas led this list with 26,313 rape-related pregnancies in 16 months.
Projections were based on data from sources that included the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and Bureau of Justice statistics. Historical data was used to estimate the number of vaginal rapes and how many of them led to pregnancy.
Questions about the study’s methodology have been raised since the findings are extrapolations based on data that preceded the abortion bans.
If anything, these numbers are likely undercounts, given that rapes are historically underreported. The study is a jarring indicator of the prevalence of rape and demonstrates how the need for abortion exceptions is not merely a political talking point. This happens all the time, and victims of rape are being denied reproductive health options and body autonomy.
It also illustrates how the state compounds the trauma and horror that sexual assault victims experience. A girl or woman who has been raped has already been violated and denied the choice of what to do with her body.
Some victims do choose to have the babies that result from rape, and they have loving relationships with their children. But it should be their choice. What if it’s not the choice of the women for whom the pregnancy is a daily reminder of sexual assault? What of the 14-year-old child impregnated by her father? This is not a choice the state should have the power to dictate.
A woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy, whatever the reason, is personal, emotional and painful. But it’s exacerbated when the baby has been conceived in violence.
It’s cruel and unconscionable for the state to prolong this torment. In 2021, when Texas’ abortion law was being enacted, Gov. Greg Abbott was asked to justify not allowing exceptions for rape and incest. He said “goal No. 1 in the state of Texas is to eliminate rape so that no woman, no person, will be a victim of rape.”
It was a cynical and insincere comment that disrespected rape victims.
We don’t doubt that if given the power to eliminate rape, Abbott would use it. But he doesn’t have that power to eliminate rape, and his comment ignored just how prevalent rape is in Texas and across the country. Because of Abbott and the Legislature, those women who are impregnated by rapists don’t have the choice to exercise their reproductive rights unless they flee the state, but not all women have the resources to do that.
Their bodies and their choices should not be the concern of their legislators.