Politics What The Hell Is Wrong With You, South Dakota?
posted by October 22 at 16:16 PMon
I’m biding my time until the mayor’s debate with Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman at the Cafe on the Ave., where, from the looks of it, the kids aren’t feeling the recession much—I’m eating a bagel with butter ($2) while the studious folks around me all seem to be able to afford full $10 meals. Is college no longer a time of privation anymore?
Anyway, amid all the Obamamania and panic over Prop. 8, it’s easy to overlook another important election going on in South Dakota: A vote on whether to completely ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman. Even if McCain—the guy who put mocking air quotes around the “health” of a woman, to indicate he thought health exceptions to abortion bans allow frivolous abortions—loses, reproductive rights everywhere are still threatened by measures like South Dakota’s. The proposal, if enacted, would force women to bring pregnancies to term even in cases where the fetus will be stillborn; put doctors at risk of criminal charges because of extremely vague language defining a woman’s health; and would force doctors to file a report stating that their patient was raped, including the name and address of the rapist, to criminal authorities before they could use the rape exception. The argument for this, cited by Feministe, is that “if it is truly a case of rape or incest, weíre doing a disservice to society if we donít do that,Ē according to one of the ban’s proponents. It also requires the doctor performing an abortion in rape and incest cases to take DNA samples from the woman and the fetus, to prove that the pregnancy was really the result of rape or incest (and, anti-choice proponents claim, to help prosecute rape and incest cases.) The supposed argument for this latter requirement is that rapists use abortion to cover up their crimes. Prove paternity, and you’ve stopped the rape or incest.
Cara at Feministe effectively eviscerates both arguments. The first:
Firstly, shifting the burden of reporting from the victim to the doctor would only change who the victim must report the crime to. She would still have to provide all of the relevant information needed to file a police report. Itís the same exact process. Also, if police are actually going to try to catch the perpetrator based on this report, as Ridder emphasizes, they are certainly going to want to talk to the victim at some point anyway, meaning that any potentially traumatizing line of questioning isnít going to be avoided. It further bears noting that the trauma many rape victims experience from reporting isnít necessarily due to treatment by police, but treatment by their family, friends and community. […]
Additionally, if this new fabulous method of rape reporting is so much less traumatizing to women, why arenít these really concerned activists working to give this right to report to a doctor instead of police to all rape victims? Should a victim have to be impregnated by her rapist to access the supposedly least traumatizing form of reporting? Iíd think not. So, could the issue be that these people donít actually care at all about rape victims, but are really concerned with how to most effectively restrict their access to health care?
As for the last quoted sentence from the immensely compassionate Dr. Ridder, what exactly is he insinuating with the words ďif this is truly a case of rape or incestĒ? Because if and truly imply that a victim might be lying. Certainly, thatís not doing any favors to his claim that reporting a rape to a doctor is far less traumatizing than reporting directly to police. Then he moves onto how not reporting a rape is doing a disservice to society.
The fact is that victims donít owe us anything. Iíd like to see more victims report rape, but first weíre going to have to create a society where those victims can reliably find compassion and a fair, non-rape apologist judicial system. The answer is not to force women to report. Women who choose not to report do so for their own reasons, usually very logical ones, and they are not doing a disservice to society with that choice. How about we start looking at the rapist who is doing a disservice to society by raping people, rather than pointing fingers at the victims who theyíve made too fearful to report?
And the second:
As for the anti-choice arguments, there is an inherent logical fallacy here. If rapists in cases of ongoing abuse, like incest, are using abortion to cover up their crimes, doesnít that mean that the rapists are therefore forcing their victims into having abortions? If this is the case, then surely under this law, rapists would just stop forcing their victims to get abortions, and would instead force the victims to hide the pregnancies or blame them on someone else, make them to carry to term, give birth, and then surrender the baby for adoption. You know, just like in pre-Roe days. It would only make sense for rapists to stop using abortion to cover up their rapes when they only way to obtain an abortion is for a rape to be reported, so theyíd find alternatives to ensure that the reporting still doesnít happen. Simple stuff. […]
Clearly, those supporting the ban donít care about those slutty women who got pregnant from consensual sex and whether or not they hurt/maim/kill themselves with illegal and unsafe abortions ó but surely they care about making sure that harm doesnít befall rape victims, right? Thatís what they want the public to believe, and this is why no one ought to buy it.
Over two excellent posts, Jen, one of the many wonderful women I met while in SD, talks about her own rapes and what the SD law could have meant for her under different circumstances, and why forcing her to report would have been so cruel. In a world where rape survivors are routinely mocked and laughed at simply for telling their own stories ó and I should know ó itís downright sadistic to force women to tell their stories simply so that they donít have to give birth to their rapistís child.
Daily Kos recently added the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, which is fighting the ban, to its Orange to Blue fundraising list—an indication, perhaps, of how important this fight is not just for women in South Dakota but for women (and those who love them, or fuck them, or just don’t want them to be forced to have kids) everywhere. You can also donate directly here.