It was less than two weeks ago that a little-known New Mexico state representative shocked the nation with a bill she introduced that would make it a crime for a woman to have an abortion if she’d been raped.
Representative Cathrynn Brown (pictured above), Republican from District 55, introduced the bill (H.B. 206) earlier this week, claiming that the bill - which imposes a strict jail sentence for anyone abetting an abortion for a rape victim - would help curb rapes in her state. The bill also uses language that turns the fetus into “evidence,” which could be used at trial against the alleged rapist.
Ms Brown came out publicly and clarified the bill’s remarks (which then stated it was possible that the rape victim who receive an abortion would received a jail sentence for tampering with “evidence.”), stating that the bill would make it illegal for providers - doctors and nurses in abortion clinics - to perform an abortion on a rape victim. The rape victim would not be charged.
The New Mexico state legislature is controlled by Democrats, and so it is unlikely that this bill, in any form or measure, will pass and become law.
This bill is dangerous. A woman, who has been violated and traumatized by actions forced upon her by a man, must then (if this law were to pass) proceed with an emotionally draining and substantively damaging unwanted pregnancy, all for the sake of evidence in a case. She would have to carry a child in her womb for nine months, with no regard to her emotional and mental well-being.
There is a lack of knowledge of human psychology that is evident in this legislation. There are scars that cannot be erased from being sexually violated, and these scars only grow when faced with the idea that the pregnancy must be carried to term for the sake of the government.
In reality, forcing a pregnancy to term could prove more harmful to the woman than the rape itself. That woman has to face the changes in her body and the fetus inside it everyday. It is a constant reminder of the indignity she went through. It is a slap in the face, a moment of shame, and a crack in the heart that grows as the days pass. She may have complications, and then is faced with the question of who pays for the bills, her family or the government. She may feel anger towards a government that has intruded on her life. And that doesn’t even cover what the woman might have to say about her pregnancy. A woman who is married and raped by another man would certainly have relationship issues with her husband, because even if he is supportive, he can never truly understand her heartbreaking situation. A single woman might have to deal with family members who want her to keep the baby, which she might now want to.
And there are many questions: Does this measure take place for those raped by a family member? Does it include the 11, 12, and 13 year-olds or younger who are raped? Must they be forced to endure a pregnancy that may cause harm to their young bodies? What about those who are at risk through pregnancy? Would the crime of rape then become murder, if this measure were to take hold? For if a woman loses her life because of legislation forcing her to carry to term a child born out of rape, should the alleged rapist then not be accused of murder? Or should it be on the head of the state government, who, without logical reason or research, determined that there be no exceptions?
The bill’s objective is to help curb the amount of rapes in New Mexico. This type of thinking is beyond this author’s understanding. Any dip in the reports of rape could easily be attributed to the amount of women who’d rather go through an abortion than carry the pregnancy to term. The added shame of being forced to go through with a pregnancy resulting from a rape might be too much for a lot of women to bear, so they would forgo reporting the crime altogether.
It is in this author’s opinion that Cathrynn Brown knew full well that this measure would never pass a Democrat-controlled state legislature, and it was introduced as a means to garner her national attention. This was a political play, one that caused an outcry in the public arena, but more than likely won her fans in the form of far-right Republicans. Brown is most likely looking towards a run in national politics, and because rape and abortion is a hot-button issue right now, she knew it would be her best bet to catch some national spotlight.
It is unfortunate that a woman, and an attorney, would author a bill such as this. But it is not surprising. Cathrynn Brown has likely never been a victim of rape, and so cannot possibly understand what it is like for victims of a rape to face the idea of a full-term pregnancy. For her, this bill is ideological, and showcases her beliefs to the leadership in her party.
This should be a wake up call to the rest of the nation. If we truly are a nation that can separate church and state, then let’s have a dialogue - that doesn’t include religion - on abortion, rape, and the women and families affected by it. Let us sit down and rationally debate the pros and cons.
Let us be the country that thinks of the people, not for the people.