Analysis: What's so wrong about Greg Abbott's rape comments

8September 2021

“Let’s make something very clear: Rape is a crime,” Abbott said. “And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”
Oh really! You are going to “eliminate” all rape?
“Wait. Governor Abbott had a solution to end all RAPE and he sat on it until now?” tweeted state Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat. “Does it involve horse de-wormer?”
According to Statista, there were almost 15,000 rapes in Texas in 2019 — the most of any state in the country. And because Abbott’s pledge to end all rapes in the state is hugely unrealistic, it is a fact that there will be women in his state who are pregnant because of a rape and will be unable to get an abortion because of this new law.
Then there’s this: The law outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is often as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Many women — including rape survivors — may not even know they are pregnant by that point.
Here’s New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) on that exact point in an interview with CNN on Tuesday night:
“I’m sorry we have to break down Biology 101 on national television, but in case no one has informed him before in his life, six weeks pregnant means two weeks late for your period. And two weeks late on your period for any person — any person with a menstrual cycle — can happen if you’re stressed, if your diet changes or for really no reason at all. So you don’t have six weeks.”
It’s entirely possible then that a rape survivor wouldn’t even know she was pregnant before this new law barred her from getting an abortion at as early as six weeks.
It’s worth noting here that Texas has more than 2,000 rape kits backlogged, according to End the Backlog, a national not-for-profit group that aims to identify “the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it.” Texas had done work to address what was a more considerable backlog of rape kits; state Rep. Victoria Neave said in March that the backlog had been reduced by 80% since the state passed comprehensive reform of the process in 2019.
The broader point here is that Abbott’s answer on eliminating rape entirely is deeply tone deaf. And there are plenty of things that he — and the state — could be doing to reduce rapes besides passing a law that criminalizes a rape survivor being able to terminate her pregnancy. Like, a lot.

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