News Abortion

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

Robin Marty

What if we made fetuses evidence and said abortion would "destroy" it? It's illogical in every way.

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.”

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“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.

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Family Planning

Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood

Nicole Knight Shine

The Republican-backed law specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails "to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court to block an Arizona law defunding Planned Parenthood, arguing in a legal challenge filed Thursday that the Arizona measure is “illegal.”

The GOP-backed law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in May, specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails “to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Federal law already bars health-care providers from using Medicaid dollars for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

In an 18-page complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the restriction is impermissible under Medicaid statutes, and they ask for an injunction on the law, which goes into effect August 6. Planned Parenthood said in an emailed statement that the law could slash funding for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care, affecting more than 2,500 Medicaid patients in the state.

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The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Lee, staff attorney at the ACLU, called the Arizona law “another attempt to intimidate doctors who provide abortion and to punish low-income women in particular,” in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood operates 11 medical centers in the state, including three in underserved and impoverished communities with high rates of infant mortality, according to the court filing.

At least ten states, including Arizona, have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding—the fallout from a string of deceptive smear videos masterminded by David Daleiden, the head of the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress, who now faces a felony record-tampering charge.

“This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an announcement of the Arizona suit. “We’ll continue fighting in Arizona, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need.”

The Arizona law represents the state’s second attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision finding a similar defunding measure, HB 2800, violated federal Medicaid law.

In April, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter to all 50 states saying that cutting funding to qualified providers solely because they provide abortion care violates federal law.

Independent analysis suggests gutting Planned Parenthood funding exacts a toll on health care.

2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that health-care access would suffer under Planned Parenthood funding cuts, with the potential for $650 million in additional Medicaid spending over a decade and thousands of more births.

In Texas, births surged 27 percent among low-income women who were using injectable birth control but lost access to the service when the state cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.