It seems the GOP’s go to position when it comes to rape and abortion is often “women can’t get pregnant from sexual assaults.” If anyone needs a “plan b” on this issue, it is these people — all men — who just clearly don’t know what they are talking about. Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) has proposed legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks. At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the measure he offered these sage words: “Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low. But when you make that exception, there’s usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that’s impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that’s what completely negates and vitiates the purpose for such an amendment.”
Wow. Franks was not paying attention when comments like this lost his party two elections last year or when his colleague Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said the same thing earlier this year. What is it with these Republicans that makes them so opposed to science and so tone deaf on this issue?
This has been a good week for proponents of reproductive justice. On Monday, the Federal Drug Administration approved the sale of Plan B One Step as an over the counter medication (OTC) for anyone who wants it (it had been OTC for women over 17 but required a prescription for anyone under). This is a big deal because it is a safe and effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancy. It has been available since 2009 and there have been no reported deaths or serious injuries due to its use. Emergency Contraception (EC) is safer than unplanned pregnancy.
And how is that relevant? Nearly 50 percent of US pregnancies are unplanned. Nearly 40 percent of those result in abortion. Studies have shown that women who are abused or raped do indeed get pregnant — in fact these factors may leave women more likely to. Here’s a fact sheet about some of the consequences associated with unplanned pregnancy. What are they?
- Abortion: No, EC medications are not the same thing as abortion. The US abortion rate is higher than most other industrialized countries. It is dropping but according to the sheet above, there were 1.3 million of them in 2001.
- Decreased cognitive ability in children: Studies show children who were born because of an unplanned pregnancy have lower test scores than those whose births were planned.
- More instability in the parents’ relationships: Approximately 46 percent of women whose pregnancies are unplanned report that five years after their child’s birth, they had gone through at least one major change to their relationship status. Only 21 percent of women who planned their pregnancy could say the same thing.
- Women in this position are more likely to be abused: Unplanned pregnancy among abused women is common and it is more likely afterwards.
- Post-pardum depression rates are higher for women who had a child due to an unplanned pregnancy.
- The health of the child suffers: Women whose pregnancies are unplanned delay getting prenatal care, are less likely to breastfeed and more likely to be born preterm and/or underweight.
And what about rape and pregnancy? Doesn’t a victim of “legitimate rape” have a way of “shutting the whole thing down?” No, in fact a Human Nature study, Are per-incident rape-pregnancy rates higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates? found that women who are raped are nearly twice as likely to become pregnant from one experience than women who engage in consensual sex (the rate was 6.4 percent for the rape victims and 3.1 for the others).
None of that matters to the politicians who just want to outlaw abortion and don’t care much for the science or the women. The irony to me is that if these pregnancies were so rare, why would an amendment making an exception for rape in anti-abortion laws matter? Because these men are claiming women are lying about being raped.
My position on abortion is that while I would like it to be (to quote the Clintons), “safe, legal and rare” but also think it is something very private and not my business.
And some more food for thought on unplanned pregnancies: (You can read the full stats on this here.)
- Nearly 50 percent of women aged 45 or above have experienced an unplanned pregnancy.
- Approximately 62 percent of unplanned pregnancies are in women living below the federal poverty line. These are the pregnancies most likely to result in abortion.
- More educated women plan their pregnancies, less educated do not.
- In 2006, 43 percent of unplanned pregnancies ended in abortion.