Rape and Incest Exemptions to Abortion Are Just “Political” Concessions, Says Anti-Choice Leader May 21, 2015

Rape and Incest Exemptions to Abortion Are Just “Political” Concessions, Says Anti-Choice Leader

“Personal responsibility” is language that often gets thrown around in the abortion debate by those who would limit women’s reproductive choices. “Abortion is selfish. Abortion is the ultimate rejection of personal responsibility,” is a familiar refrain. If a woman consents to sex, she consents to pregnancy, and should “take responsibility,” the thinking goes, by carrying through the pregnancy.

Now, there are quite a few flaws with that thinking (consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy being the most obvious), but it seems to be a line that meets with some success. While many people believe there should be limitations on when abortion is available, a full 75% of Gallup respondents, for instance, believe that abortion should be legal for rape victims. While there are many reasons that could go into that (like not wishing to force further trauma, through forced pregnancy, on a victim), at least among the pro-life people I know, the fact that the woman didn’t have a say in the matter and isn’t “just using abortion as birth control” factors heavily into their support for rape exemptions.

As it happens, personal responsibility is more of a wedge tactic than an actual argument against abortion. Rape and incest exceptions become the compromise between the two sides.

But this isn’t the way anti-abortion groups and activists see things. For years now, for instance, the Republican Party has maintained a strict anti-abortion platform… with no exception for rape and incest victims. The slow whittling away of abortion rights may make it necessary to concede these exemptions in the short term, but what about in the long-term?

Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, speaking of a recent anti-abortion bill that passed in the House, answered that question. And she pulled no punches in discussing the “political calculations” of these exemptions:

“Regrettably, there is a rape and incest exception” in the bill, she said. “It is the only way it was going to be allowed onto the floor by the leadership. I mean, I say regrettable, I really mean it. Any child at any stage should be protected from conception, and certainly at 20 weeks excepting anyone is just wrong.”

Host Shane Vander Hart told her that while he’d “love to see abortion completely outlawed and see some sort of a personhood amendment or a human life amendment,” he thought the 20-week ban did “move the ball forward.”

“Well, that’s why this is big,” Dannenfelser responded, adding that the 20-week bill shifted the debate to “talking about the child and his or her rights.”

She also laid out her vision for how GOP leaders could get past those pesky exemptions altogether, to a perfect world where (legal) abortion simply isn’t an option.

“It’s going to take winning,” she responded, citing anti-choice victories in the 2014 elections where “we had unapologetic pro-life people who didn’t talk about rape and incest.”

“I believe that it’s going to take winning the presidency for there to be a little more injection of courage, which will be required to understand the consistency of life that you’re describing,” she said.

“Do you think that at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about for a lot of those politicians, that they realize [rape exceptions are] an inconsistent position to take but they take it because they think it’s a political reality?” Myers asked.

“Yes. I think that’s why,” Dannenfelser agreed. “I think that they think they can’t get, that they will lose if they don’t. …”

“I think you’re right,” she added. “It’s a political judgement. It’s not a principled judgement. And I think they made the wrong judgement, but we would have no bill at all and no 15,000 children saved if we had not allowed it to move forward with the exception.”

Anti-abortion activists lost when they tried to outlaw abortion outright. They have, however, been a lot more successful at slowly whittling them away. Whatever “political” concessions they might make in the meantime, the pro-life movement isn’t interested in compromise. They’re interested in forcing on Americans the same hardline religious restrictions on women’s reproductive health that we see all over the world in so-called “pro-life” countries.

And the GOP, with its continual attacks on women’s health (to say nothing of the party platform), seems eager to make it happen.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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