In 1988, President George Bush I chose a vice-president who became a laughing stock for his cheerful ignorance. I’m referring, of course, to Dan Quayle. Quayle had a simple answer to the question of whether a victim of rape should have access to safe, legal abortion-
He then added: “In the case of rape, hopefully they would seek medical attention immediately, and under normal medical procedure, life and conception would not even begin.”
In answers to reporters’ questions, Quayle later identified the procedure as a “D and C,” or dilation and curettage, a scraping of the uterine walls. He said that if a D and C were performed “right after a rape . . . life would not even be formed.”
Quayle went on to dig deeper into the mysteries of gynecology.
Not knowing, not wanting to know, may be harmless enough in some contexts, but it’s scary when politicians who make law don’t care enough about the citizens to even get the facts straight.
But this crude and brutal take on rape and medical treatment was not just the confusion of one empty suit politician. It’s clearly a faith held by others on the Republican Right. Twenty-five years later Texas debates abortion law–June 24, 2013–
One Texas GOP state representative is apparently confused about what “rape kits” are used for.
While the Texas House debated an anti-abortion omnibus bill for 15 hours Sunday night, Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) called for an exemption for victims of rape and incest, the Associated Press reported. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R) objected, saying “rape kits” make that exemption unneccessary:
“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out,” [Laubenberg] said, comparing the procedure to an abortion. “The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.”
Her apparent confusion about “rape kits” — a phrase generally used to describe the equipment used by medical personnel during forensic examinations to gather physical evidence following allegations of rape or sexual assault — sparked widespread ridicule on social media sites. Laubenberg then simply rejected all proposed changes to her bill without speaking until the end of the debate.
I took the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner course several years ago through Day One.
The exam is focused first of all on the emergency medical care of the victim, and second on collecting evidence. The examiner checks for injury that may need treatment, and collects swabs for DNA. DNA evidence has been crucial in putting serial rapists in prison.
It’s horrifying to imagine Dan Quayle’s emergency room, where injured women have their wombs scraped out to satisfy the moral standards of politicians. A D&C is not a minor procedure, and would not even necessarily prevent pregnancy. It would be traumatic, though, and painful. Might even spread infection deeper into the woman’s body. Certainly the threat of being “cleaned out” would prevent many inconvenient reports of rape and allow the willfully ignorant to go on believing that women are generally liars and only “legitimate rape” matters.
I’m concerned that any woman might be misled into thinking the rape exam is another violation. The rape exam is designed to care for a victim of crime, and with her consent, to collect evidence that can be used if she decides to report the assault to the police. Getting care does not require her to do that, anymore than getting care after a mugging requires a victim to report. The rape exam allows for evidence collection at the time of the assault, and the DNA samples can be processed even years later.
The rape exam does offer protection against pregnancy. It’s called emergency contraception, also known as Plan B, or the ‘morning after’ pill. The Republicans are against that too.
Failing to offer contraception is a real issue in some hospitals. The false claim that it’s an ‘abortion pill’ has obstructed the use of a pill that, in fact, prevents abortions.
Rape victims are collateral damage in the abortion wars. Or maybe the central issue is control of women. Taking the most profound decisions about life away from the woman concerned is a clear vote of non-trust. Protecting rapists ensures that there will always be a threat of terror to keep women in their place.
I just hope that any woman watching this debate in Texas will be able to find support and accurate information if she needs it.
Justice for crime victims did not originate with politicians handing down laws, but with community organizers who built these support systems from the ground up, and helped reform law to promote justice. The Republican Party just hasn’t gotten the memo yet.
I wonder what role religion plays in the perception of woman as a receptacle. After all, according to the Bible she is the weaker vessel.