One New Mexico Republican has come up with a novel way to try and criminalize abortion in the case of rape or incest: declare the fetus evidence of the sexual assault.
House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), would legally require victims of rape or incest to carry their pregnancies to term, purportedly so that the fetus could be used as evidence for a sex assault trial. Any rape or incest victim who ended her pregnancy would be charged with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”
According to the language of the bill, “[t]ampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.” In New Mexico, third-degree felonies are punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years.
This latest attack on women’s health and safety is particularly offensive since House Republicans refuse to renew the Violence Against Women Act. And consider the fact that incidents of rape and incest are already chronically under-reported and it is hard to see how threatening survivors with a felony should they abort does anything but further shame and demean survivors.
Supporters of the measure claim the law is designed to help dissuade rapists, which makes total sense since it punishes the victims. Of course.
Importantly, though, the bill is right in line with the Republican party platform and what has become the center of the conservative movement that now believes women in every circumstance must be forced by the state to carry every pregnancy to term. Let’s be very clear what criminalizing abortion in this context does — it compels women through the power of the state to stay pregnant and birth against their will.
The bill is in the early stages of the legislative process, though Brown hopes to see it passed and implemented by summer. Should it pass it would likely face an almost immediate legal challenge, which, like the 20 week abortion ban in Arizona, could be exactly the point. In the meantime, though, we can all add “forcing rape and incest victims to carry their assailants baby to term” to the growing list of ways Republicans are looking out for women.
Photo from VilleHoo via flickr.