Rape and the American Right

Abortion, welfare and gun control are major preoccupations of the American Right.   The right to potentially kill people is sacrosanct, and allowing children to starve is fine, but attempt to end the development of a zygote, embryo or foetus and you are an evil murderess, which must be compelled to incubate said zygotes, embryos and foetuses.  Now, as everyone knows rape is a dreadful, terrible, awful thing, which cannot be possibly be allowed to happen, consequently policing rape is a very important issue, but it would seem the American Right has discovered that actually rape can be quite useful in furthering their own agendas – to protect zygotes, embryos and foetuses, to justify allowing children to starve and to promote the right to kill people.

Abortion is a key battleground in the war against women.  Multiple bills across multiple states have been brought in to restrict women’s access to abortion in the past few years.  In 2011, there were over 1000 bills which sought to chip away at a womans right to a legal and safe abortion of which 135 were enacted, while an additional 42 were enacted in 2012.

The one nut which has proven hardest to crack in the Republicans desire to outlaw abortion altogether, is in pregnancy as a result of rape.  Even the most ardent anti-choice advocates balk at the idea of forcing a victim of rape to continue with an undesired pregnancy.  The politics of rape and the politics of abortion have consequently become entwined, with attempts to narrow the definition of rape, under which abortion would be allowed.

It all kicked off with  Paul Ryan’s “forcible rape” in January 2011, as a criterion for who would be allowed an abortion (as opposed to the other kind presumably, whose victim would not be allowed an abortion), then we had Ron Paul suggesting that a shot of estrogen would sort out an “honest rape”, in February last year; in August, Todd Akin asserted that in the case of a “legitimate rape”, the body would “shut that whole thing (aka pregnancy) down”, in October, Linda Mahon suggested that there was an issue of a Catholic Church not wanting to issue abortificients in “an emergency rape”.  Demonstrating a massive lack of awareness of both basic biology and a great deal of confusion between the function of a church and the function of a hospital.  Later in October, Richard Mourdock, announced that pregnancy as a result of rape  was “a gift from God”.

In New Mexico, there have been attempts to go one step further, where rape victims seeking an abortion may be charged as tampering with evidence

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

After an outcry, the proposer of the bill suggested that she had not suggested that rape victims themselves would be charged, only the medical personnel who performed the procedure.  What that means in practice is that if you experience rape and may wish an abortion should you become pregnant as a result, you should not report the rape until after you are certain that you are not pregnant as a result, otherwise medical practitioners may find themselves charged with “tampering with evidence”.  Should you subsequently report the pregnancy, the medical personnel may well be retrospectively charged, and potentially debarred, further decreasing provision in a state where there are only 12 abortion providers for over a million women, and 91% of counties have no provider at all.

Recently a new front has opened up in the war against abortion, this time not in restricting access to abortions for rape victims, but ensuring that those who seek abortions become rape victims.  Last February, Virginia passed legislation requiring all women seeking abortion to undergo transvaginal ultrasound scans, where probes are inserted into the vagina to provide an image of the foetus on screen.  Going one better, Indiana has now proposed legislation that demands that women must undergo two transvaginal scans – one before the abortion and one after.  There is no medical justification for this, it is purely about the control over womens bodies.  This unwanted penetration is achieved through coercion – if women do not agree to it, they do not get the medical treatment that they require.

But while zygotes, embryos and foetus are enjoying never before entitlements, once they turn into babies and children, interest in them wanes somewhat.  One in five children live in poverty in the United States, and the numbers of children suffering its effects are increasing, but at the same time attacks on support to families requiring assistance is gathering.  In Pennsylvania, a new law is proposed that would cut all benefits for children if they were conceived while the mother was in receipt of temporary family assistance – unless the child was a product of rape and the women has reported the rape, including naming the attacker.   Suggesting that only those children whose fathers are rapists are worthy of state support.

The most recent all-consuming debate in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings is gun control.  Understandably in a land which sees school shootings take place with alarming regularity and where young children are killed daily both intentionally and by accident through the lax gun laws, more and more people are pushing for gun control, and here again rape is a handy little tool for the right to push their agenda.  Gun ownership and particularly the right to carry concealed weapons is being pushed as a responsible safety measure for women to avoid rape, suggesting that opposing gun control is a “feminist issue” despite the fact that six times as many women are killed by a man with a gun as men are killed by a woman with a gun.  When Zerlina Maxwell, suggested that gun possession was not rape prevention a massive backlash ensued.

See rape is actually quite useful.  As Susan Brownmillar said…

A world without rapists would be a world in which women moved freely without fear of men. That some men rape provides a sufficient threat to keep all women in a constant state of intimidation…

That intimidation extends well beyond the boundaries of mere sexual assault, but to unwanted pregnancies, struggling children and the acceptance of gun proliferation.  It establishes a dichotomy of deserving abortion and welfare recipients.  Where women become pregnant as a result of consensual sexual activity in difficult circumstances both abortion and child support are harder and harder to obtain.  At the same time, violence against women is used to justify gun proliferation; the fear of assault that women face turned back on them as they are told that it is their responsibility to protect themselves from predators, while the predators face no restrictions on their weapons.



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