“It was the ugliest feeling explaining to the doctor that delivered your child that she was raped, and then him telling you he can’t do anything to help you.”

Legally, if you get pregnant after being raped in Mississippi, you should be able to get an abortion. Although the state has banned almost all abortions, it does permit them in cases of rape. But when a teenager there recently became pregnant through rape, her parents still had to take her to Illinois for an abortion. The last clinic in Mississippi had already closed.

“It was the ugliest feeling explaining to the doctor that delivered your child that she was raped, and then him telling you he can’t do anything to help you. He gave me the number to the Louisiana clinic,” the mother of the unnamed teenager told a local Mississippi news outlet in late November. That clinic, too, had closed, thanks to that state’s abortion ban. There were simply no abortion clinics close by.

Long held up as common-sense compromises by Republican politicians and grudgingly tolerated by anti-abortion activists, abortion bans with exceptions for rape and incest have now become something of an endangered species. Abortion bans in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennesse, and Texas—practically all of the South—have zero exceptions for incest or rape.

But even when laws do allow abortions in cases of rape and incest, experts told VICE News that, in reality, they rarely work. Now that Roe v. Wade has fallen and abortion bans have snapped into place, it’s simply not financially feasible for clinics to stay open in states with bans, because there just aren’t enough patients. And when a rape victim is allowed to get an abortion, they may be asked to navigate a series of logistically arduous, emotionally wrenching obstacles. 

When states started loosening their bans on abortion in the 1960s, many agreed to let people seek abortions in cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies. After the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, rendering that that trifecta of exceptions unnecessary, anti-abortion activists spent decades chipping away at Roe—but still tended to leave rape and incest exceptions alone. Many believed that a fetus conceived through rape was still a baby, worthy of protecting against abortion, but the movement usually recognized that such a position wasn’t exactly politically tenable. Towards the twilight of the Roe era, as the movement grew ever more powerful and conservatives’ grip on the Supreme Court tightened, anti-abortion activists pushed for what they really wanted: the end of rape and incest exceptions. 

Still, the majority of Americans believed as recently as 2018 that abortion should be permitted even in the third trimester of pregnancy if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. After the Supreme Court demolished Roe, people were aghast at the account of a 10-year-old Ohioan who had to leave her state for an abortion after she got pregnant through rape. She wasn’t the only one: Another two raped children had to flee Ohio for abortions, according to legal records in a lawsuit over Ohio’s abortion ban. One had to wait more than three weeks for an abortion, an abortion clinic worker said in an affidavit.

“What is the state’s interest in a law like this, in really forcing minors who are raped to carry pregnancy to term?” said Jessie Hill, an attorney representing Ohio abortion providers in that lawsuit. That ban is now on hold, thanks to a judge’s court order. Legally speaking, the rape and incest exceptions had little to nothing to do with that order. But, Hill said, “I do think just the fact of how this law really plays out in reality was very moving to the judge. I mean, it was to a lot of people.”

Hill said that, before Roe’s overturning, she regularly got calls from abortion clinics asking how to handle minor patients who have gotten pregnant through rape. “I find the whole discourse so frustrating, because you knew this could happen,” Hill said. “Everybody knew this was going to happen.”

Georgia is one of the few states that has banned nearly all abortions past six weeks of pregnancy, but allows it in cases of rape or incest. The state requires that an abortion patient file a police report in order to obtain the procedure. However, out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, just 310 are reported to police, according to statistics from RAINN, the nation’s premier anti-sexual assault organization. Of those reports, ultimately just 25 will result in the perpetrator’s incarceration.“

“We know that lots of victims of sexual violence don’t want to report to law enforcement. That’s one of the most underreported and under-prosecuted offenses,” said Mary Ziegler,  a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law who studies the legal history of reproduction. “Some of these laws not only require that you report to law enforcement, but that you do it in a particular way, within a particular time frame, which may not really work for people who’ve been traumatized.”

“Occasionally you’ll see these statistics reported where essentially people say, ‘There are very few abortions occurring in cases of sexual violence,’ and I think that’s probably not true,” Ziegler continued. “Before Roe was overturned, lots of people who were victims of sexual violence didn’t invoke rape or incest exceptions or report the reasons they were having abortions. They just had abortions.”

Roxane Sutocky handles communications for the Women’s Centers, a network of abortion clinics with locations in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. While she said she’s not aware of any Georgia rape victims who’ve asked for abortions since Roe’s overturning, the Pennsylvania clinics are used to dealing with rape and incest exceptions. Although abortion remains legal there, Medicaid can only be used to cover it in cases of rape, incest, or medical emergencies. 

“The reporting there is very burdensome, depending on the insurance carrier. Sometimes [it] even requires an extra visit for pre-authorization ultrasounds, so that in and of itself can cause undue delays,” Sutocky said. “For a lot of folks, they find they don’t want to have to go through the trouble of documenting their experience, feeling potentially retraumatized through that process just to gain coverage in those cases.”

Despite the lack of incentive to report, the very existence of that requirement suggests that legislators and law enforcement believe people will lie about having been raped in order to obtain abortions. 

“There was a theory that if people waited too long to report, there was no bonafide sexual assault essentially, that people who were waiting were having time to make up a story or something,” Ziegler said. “You hear loophole arguments all the time.” (Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio recently made a similar point about laws that would allow people to get abortions in cases where they say they may kill themselves if they can’t end their pregnancies.)

Even in cases where people do report sexual assaults to law enforcement, it’s not yet clear how abortion bans will shape police’s ability to respond to them. Dr. Eve Espey, a New Mexico OB-GYN who performs abortions, said that, since Roe’s overturning, she’s seeing more patients who have been raped or survived incest. “We’ve had several chain of custody cases from Texas, which is really challenging, particularly minors that have been raped,” Espey said. “Our law enforcement works with Texas law enforcement to try to help bring perpetrators to some kind of justice.” 

One of the raped children who fled Ohio for an abortion ultimately had the procedure performed in Indiana, according to legal records. Law enforcement had to drive out to Indiana to pick up tissue in order to test it for the child’s sexual assault case.

“I am concerned that Ohio’s ban and the need to travel increasingly far distances to obtain abortion care not only causes unimaginable harm to these young victims,” an Ohio abortion clinic worker said in an affidavit, “but could also hamper law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute these cases in the future.”

In the wake of the midterms, when anti-abortion forces lost every statewide measure over abortion and the Republican “red wave” failed to materialize, anti-abortion activists have doubled down on the narrative that the GOP needed to go harder on abortion. With state legislatures set to open up in January, lawmakers will get a new opportunity to add exceptions to their abortion bans—or tighten them even further. 

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life, tweeted that the midterm results proved that the anti-abortion movement needed to focus more on federal abortion restrictions. “Like other injustices our nation faced in our past, some states will just refuse to acknowledge human rights and progress,” she wrote.

Kristi Hamrick, spokesperson for Students for Life, told VICE News that the organization rejects “prejudice against children based on circumstances outside of their control.”

“Rape should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But I would I think one of the questions we have to ask ourselves is, does the violence of abortion in any way cure or mitigate the violence of rape?” Hamrick said. “I think everybody is looking at the legal framework that existed for the last 50 years and asking, what’s next? What do we need to keep? What needs to be changed? I think it’s a conversation that’s being had, whether you’re pro-life or abortion, across the political spectrum.”

The parents of the raped Mississippi teenager told their local news outlet that they had never been “advocates of abortion,” as the outlet put it, but they felt like they made the best possible choice in horrifying circumstances. 

“There was no trying to wait and waste time,” her father said. “Our first instinct, you know, was her future.”

Source: https://www.vice.com/en/article/g5vnay/rape-and-incest-abortion-exception-doesnt-work