News Politics

Maine Republican Has Not Apologized for Comparing Abortion to Rape

Nina Liss-Schultz

The Maine Democratic Party recently sent campaign mailers that reignited a controversy caused by state Rep. Lawrence Lockman’s (R) statements comparing abortion and rape.

The Maine Democratic Party recently sent campaign mailers that reignited a controversy caused by state Rep. Lawrence Lockman’s (R) statements comparing abortion and rape.

The Bangor Daily News reported on the mailers, noting that the statement made by Lockman is from a 1995 article quoting the lawmaker.

“If a woman has the right to abortion, why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman?” Lockman said. “At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t in most cases result in anyone’s death.”

Lockman hasn’t held elected office in Maine for very long—he was first elected in 2012—but he has a long history of making comments like the one printed in the Democratic mailers.

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Maine political reporter Michael Tipping this year compiled a list of some of Lockman’s comments, ranging from opining on the spread of HIV to protesting the IRS.

Lockman, in a 1987 letter to the editor of a local paper, wrote about the spread of AIDS, saying, “In the overwhelming majority of cases, people are dying because of their addiction to sodomy. They are dying because progressive, enlightened, tolerant people in politics and in medicine have assured the public that the practice of sodomy is a legitimate alternative lifestyle, rather than a perverted, depraved crime against humanity.”

Lockman doubled down in 1990, saying that “the practice of sodomy is learned behavior, and those addicted to this form of biologically-insane sex are at high risk for all manner of serious medical problems.”

Almost a decade earlier, Lockman founded a group called the Maine Patriots, which espoused the belief that taxes are voluntary and that the IRS is unconstitutional. A federal tax court in 1983 found that Lockman owed more than $17,000 in unpaid taxes.

The Maine Democratic Party called for Lockman to resign after his recent rape comments were made public. Lockman refused to step down and has never issued an apology for his statements, though he did say that he regrets the comments he made.

News Politics

Donald Trump Would ‘Absolutely’ Change Republican Platform on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

The release of the GOP’s platform caused controversy in 2012 for containing no official exceptions for a total ban on legal abortion across the country.

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday that he would change the Republican Party’s anti-choice platform to include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

“The Republican platform every four years has a provision that states that the right of the unborn child shall not be infringed,” NBC’s Savannah Guthrie said during a town hall event on Today. “And it makes no exceptions for rape, for incest, for the life of the mother. Would you want to change the Republican platform to include the exceptions that you have?”

“Yes, I would. Yes, I would. Absolutely. For the three exceptions, I would,” Trump said.

“Would you have an exception for the health of the mother?” Guthrie continued.

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“I would leave it for the life of the mother,” Trump said.

The GOP’s official 2012 platform said that the party “assert[s] the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” The party advocates for “a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

Similar language was used in both the 2004 and 2008 GOP platforms.

“We have a general plank in there that affirms our belief in the God-given right to life and that governments are instituted to protect that,” former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, then-chair of the GOP’s Platform Committee, said upon the release of the platform in 2012, according to the Washington Post. “The specifics are largely left up to the states.”

The release of the GOP’s platform caused controversy in 2012 for containing no official exceptions for a total ban on legal abortion across the country. The document was released shortly after former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s notorious comment that abortions in cases of rape were not needed because, as the one-time lawmaker said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Exceptions to unconstitutional abortion bans have again become a topic of debate as Republican presidential candidates have offered different opinions on the matter throughout the race. Though Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) say they support exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) would only support an exception for life endangerment.

Trump’s murky positions on abortion rights have caused consternation in anti-choice circles. The leading GOP candidate said in March that abortion patients should face “some sort of punishment” if legal abortion was outlawed nationwide.

News Politics

Georgia Republican Stops Effort to Tackle Rape Kit Backlog

Nicole Knight Shine

The bill's sponsor said the measure institutes a process to tackle a backlog of hundreds of rape kits discovered in recent investigations.

A Georgia Republican state senator is blocking a measure intended to speed up the handling of sexual crime evidence, accusing the bill’s Democratic sponsor of playing politics.

The bill, HB 827, requires hospitals and clinics to turn over physical evidence of a sexual crime—commonly called a rape kit—within 96 hours and for law enforcement agencies to deliver the evidence to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation within 30 days.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), said the measure institutes a process to tackle a backlog of hundreds of rape kits discovered in recent investigations.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year about how the state’s largest hospital withheld more than 130 rape kits from police and failed to tell authorities about as many as 1,500 alleged sex crimes. CBS46 reported that the Athens-Clarke County and Cobb County police departments had stockpiled more than 500 rape kits, some dating back to the 1970s.

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But state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), chair of the state’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she won’t allow the legislation, which won unanimous approval in the state’s GOP-controlled house, to advance to the state senate floor for a vote.

Unterman contends the problem of untested rape kits is limited to just a few counties.

“If there was a problem, I would be Johnny on the spot and I would have written the legislation,” Unterman told WSB-TV. “I think [Holcomb] really overly politicized it in an election year and I’ve got a problem with that.”

Representatives from the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, two hospital groups, the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, and victim advocates have spoken in support of the bill.

Georgia, according to reports, lacks an official statewide inventory of untested or backlogged rape kits. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in 2015 awarded nearly $2 million to the Georgia State Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to test more than 3,100 rape kits.

Nationwide, the advocacy group Rape Kit Action Project has put the number of untested rape kits at 100,000. Recent investigations suggest the problem is more mammoth.

Last year, a nationwide investigation of more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies uncovered about 70,000 untested kits, but noted the numbers likely represent a fraction of the total number of untested rape kits. The true number of untested kits is thought to reach as high as the hundreds of thousands.

Some states, like Georgia, are pushing through legislative reforms, but the pace of change is uneven. About 20 states are now testing unexamined rape kits and have changed the rules for how the evidence should be handled, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Lawmakers in Texas, Colorado, Ohio, and Illinois have passed laws to require testing of old kits. A 2015 Maryland law requires authorities to conduct a complete inventory of the backlog and make a report to the state this month.

The federal government in 2015 awarded $79 million in grants to 43 jurisdictions in 27 states to address the massive backlog. The Obama administration has yet to implement the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act three years after its passage. The intent of the 2013 law is to help law enforcement agencies determine the number of untested rape kits in storage.