Commentary -- Report Surveys Abortion Restriction Landscape One Year After Akin’s ‘Legitimate Rape’ Comment

By Jessica Mason Pieklo, Senior Legal Analyst, RH Reality Check

One year ago, then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) uttered his infamous “legitimate rape” comment when explaining his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. The comment gave the public a rare peek into the extreme views Akin and other like-minded conservatives have on reproductive rights and how fundamentally misinformed they are on matters of basic biology.

As Akin said, “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, [getting pregnant from rape is] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The comment was the beginning of the end of Akin’s Senate run. But while it may have cost him an election, it hasn’t stopped Republicans across the country from trying to legislate legal abortion out of existence. On Friday, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) quantified those efforts in a new report, Shut That Whole Thing Down: A Survey of Abortion Restrictions Even in Cases of Rape. The report looks at abortion legislation in the states and Congress from the first half of 2013 and finds that:

  • 86 percent (235) of the 273 provisions that politicians introduced in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
  • 71 percent (27) of the 38 state provisions restricting women’s access to abortion enacted by the states apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
  • 72 percent (18) of the 25 bills introduced in Congress to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.

These restrictions include forcing a woman who has been raped to carry her pregnancy to term, denying her insurance coverage for an abortion, forcing her to undergo a physically invasive ultrasound or listen to a fetal heartbeat, allowing hospitals to refuse to provide her an abortion, or forcing her to receive inaccurate and biased information designed to dissuade her from having an abortion.

“These restrictions are an insult to women and their health needs,” said NWLC Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger in a statement. “The center’s report finds that many anti-choice politicians continue to spread false assertions about rape in order to justify the draconian restrictions that they advance.”

Some pro-choice advocates have argued that there’s an inherent problem with the abortion restrictions framing in that it feeds stigma by “legitimizing” some abortions and not others. But it can be a useful framing to illustrate how extreme the current legislative attacks from anti-choice conservatives are; to that end, the report offers extensive evidence of those efforts.

A full copy of the report can be found here.


(To read original commentary, visit this RH Reality Check link)

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