Thursday, January 24, 2013

Yikes, don't get raped in New Mexico

A State Representative in New Mexico has made quite a name for herself this week. Yesterday, Cathrynn Brown introduced H.B. 206, which would classify an abortion procured for a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest as tampering with evidence. Per the bill:

Tampering 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,
That "procuring" language is what caught a lot of peoples' attention. The plain language of that proposed bill sure makes it sound like a woman who voluntarily had an abortion (aka procured an abortion) after being raped or being the victim of incest would be committing a third-degree felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison. Naturally, a lot of people weren't big fans of the idea of turning rape victims who choose abortion into felons.

Actually, it could include the doctor or anyone else who helps the victim get an abortion, couldn't it? Facilitate is pretty broad.

When I first read the story, I understood why people found the language alarming. But I was also pretty sure I knew what the representative was trying to get at. Today, she issued a statement explaining exactly what it was she was trying to accomplish. The goal of her proposed legislation is to penalize the rapist who would compel or coerce a victim into having an abortion.

A couple of things.

1) Isn't compelling or coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will already illegal? Like battery or something?

2) If it really isn't already covered, shouldn't it be criminalized under some theory other than "tampering with evidence?"

3) How often is the fetus itself really the evidence used in a rape case? The evidence is semen from the rape kit, the victim's testimony, etc. To the extent that an incest prosecution can't go forward without a paternity test from the fetus, that's a poor excuse for forcing a girl to carry to term a pregnancy that her body and/or emotional state can't handle.

4) Brown is endorsed by Right to Life organizations. This naturally raises suspicions when she proposes any legislation targeting abortion. Over the past couple of years, more anti-abortion legislation has been proposed than ever before. The angles are becoming more and more creative, less obvious. And they're all proposed by people who claim only to have deep care and concern for women in mind. So forgive me for wondering if Brown's ulterior motive in proposing this bill is really to stop as many abortions as possible. That motivation would certainly explain her carelessness with the proposed language. If you're focused on stopping as many abortions as possible in whatever way possible, you might not notice that you're turning rape victims into felons for not wanting to carry their rapists' babies.

Fortunately, Brown's careless language has received enough national attention, I don't see how the bill can pass as it currently stands. As it shouldn't.

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