Another Day, Another Politician Who Doesn’t Understand Rape, Pregnancy, Or Abortion

abortionWho likes broken records? I hope you do because I might sound like one here. I feel like we’ve had this conversation before, but House Representative Roscoe Bartlett from Maryland has added some new aspects to the misinformation surrounding pregnancy, rape, and abortion. That means we get to go through this mess again. Don’t blame me, blame clueless politicians who spout bogus “facts.”

First, we had Representative Todd Akin‘s “legitimate rape” comment that set the whole world on fire. To be fair, his numerous non-apologies and backtracking didn’t slow the burn at all. Then, there was Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith who compared getting pregnant out of wedlock to getting pregnant from rape. Just to be clear, the two things are not similar at all. And now, we have another politician trying to explain that there’s no need to worry about a rape exception clause because women almost never get pregnant from rape. Rep. Bartlett says it’s much more important for us to be concerned about sex-selective abortions.

While speaking at a town hall meeting this weekend, Rep. Bartlett had this to say about abortion,

“There are very few pregnancies as a result of rape, fortunately, and incest—compared to the usual abortion, what is the percentage of abortions for rape? It is tiny. It is a tiny, tiny percentage. … Most abortions, most abortions are for what purpose? They just don’t want to have a baby! The second reason for abortion is you’d like a boy and it’s a girl, or vice versa…”

Now, I’m going to try to do a little math here, so let’s all strap in. An estimated 32,000 pregnancies occur from rape each year. According to the Center for American Progress, approximately 9100 of those pregnancies are aborted. And thanks to the CDC, we know that 827,609 abortions were performed in 2007. As a percentage of that total, 9100 is about 1.1% of all abortions.

In that way, Congressman Bartlett is correct. It’s a small percentage of the overall abortions that occur in this country. But I think it’s important to note that to those 9100 rape victims who make that choice, it’s not small. Nothing about it is tiny or negligible or not worth mentioning. It is a difficult and emotional decision that deserves respect from those of us who cannot imagine what that woman is going through.

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  • LiteBrite

    I’d also like to add that the numbers regarding rape and pregnancy are derived from REPORTED rapes. I think it’s important to note that not every woman who is raped reports it. In fact, I have three friends who were raped (one by a stranger, two by date rape). Only one reported it. Take a guess which one.

    So the number of pregnancies resulting from rape could be a little higher.

    What some of these politicians don’t know about women, rape, anatomy, and even math is a lot, and in in the year 2012, that’s a pretty frightening thought.

    • Lindsay Cross

      That’s a really great point. As we all know, rape is one of the most under-reported crimes there is. So trying to get accurate numbers is extremely difficult.

  • Maureen

    Actually many women choose abortion for silly reasons like wanting a girl instead of a boy, etc. I knew a woman who had an abortion because she didn’t want a baby born in March, as she was planning a cruise vacation then. In countries like India, abortions for sex selection (even female infanticide) are more common than you think. Even taking into account that rape is under-reported, very few abortions are the result of rape, certainly less than 2%. Nothing Bartlett said is factually incorrect. Even as a pro-choicer you can’t dispute this.

    • LinZoo

      “I knew a woman” is not the same as “many women.” We do not live in India.

    • maureen

      YOU may not live in India, but considering they have the 2nd largest population in the world, millions of women do. Female infanticide and sex-selective abortion is common in many countries, such as China and India, which together make up a huge portion of the global population. I’m guessing you’re the kind whose never traveled outside your small town though.

    • LinZoo

      We’re talking about US politicians commentary on abortion and rape in the US. You can’t just switch nations because you don’t have evidence to support gender-based abortions in the US.

    • Kel

      “Many” women choose to abort for “silly” reasons?? And what is YOUR
      statistical evidence of that, Maureen? You’ve cited ONE personal
      “friend” and some abstract comment about abortion or infanticide in
      another country–wow, American women who are choosing cruises over pregnancy and killing baby girls MUST be an epidemic. Please.

    • maureen

      I have met many women who have had abortions for all kinds of reasons, including frivolous ones (also serious ones). Do you expect me to sit here for hours and type out all their life stories?

      As for statistical evidence – according to the CDC, the majority of abortions are not a result of rape or medical problems. The majority of abortions are really, as Bartlett implied, because the woman just feels like not having a baby. Again, he did not say anything factually incorrect. Crucify me all you want, but this is the reality and nothing you said refutes that.

      And I did not say anything about an epidemic. Putting words into my mouth and creating a strawman argument proves you have nothing smart to say.

    • LinZoo

      The majority of abortions are also so early in the pregnancy that gender couldn’t have been determined yet. Having an abortion because you are not financially or emotionally ready to care for a child is not a frivolous reason to abort, and that is the main reason for non-rape and non-medically necessary abortions.

    • Lawcat

      The “majority” of women choose abortion because they “don’t feel life having a baby?” That’s the most asinine statement I’ve ever heard….unless, of course, you somehow know the innermost thoughts of the “majority” of women. Not being able to support a child financially, not yet ready to care for a child mentally or emotionally, the child may grow up without a father, abuse that they or a child may incur, etc are all more than “not feeling like it.”

      I *actually work* with those who have had abortions (rather than “meeting” them). While there is the very rare case as you outlined above, most of those I work with have carefully contemplated the decision. They struggle internally, thinking of the life the child may have, whether they can provide the type of home a child should have, whether they would be able to carry the child to term, the financial costs of carrying and supporting a child without adequate healthcare or support system, etc. I have lead a very blessed life, gotten any education I chose, never wanted for money, had a roof over my head, and have an excellent family support system. Even in the rare cases where it would be something I would consider a frivolous reason, I know that I am not in their shoes and I have not had their struggles. I trust that those women are making the best decisions for themselves and their family, that they have made peace, and it’s not for me – or anyone else – to make such a personal decision for them.

  • LinZoo

    If there are 22,900 pregnancies (32,000 – 9,100) from reported rape each year that are not aborted, I wonder how many of those were actually carried to term because the victim didn’t have a choice. Anti-choice legislation and activities have closed down clinics and put hurdles in the way that prevent poor women and girls under 18 from getting abortions.

  • Jeannie P

    The point being women will have abortions for no reason instead of taking precautions it is easier to just kill it. A person I know is on her fourth, when does it just become murder. Remember, abortion was suppose to be “safe and rare”. to be provided as a last resort instead is the preferred birth control of some.

    • XxdiexforxyouxX

      (Because your average woman has hundreds of dollars to pay out-of-pocket for an abortion.)
      Abortion- termination of an unwanted (or unsafe to carry, not trying to offend) pregnancy
      Birth Control- used to prevent pregnancy