What changes after a politician gets caught using a lie as the basis for cruel and extreme policies, there is national outrage, and elections are lost (including his) because of it?
Apparently, nothing. That’s what our new report, ‘Shut That Whole Thing Down:’ A Survey of Abortion Restrictions Even in Cases of Rape, discovered.
One year ago today, Todd Akin made the statement that would outrage the public and ultimately torpedo his Senate campaign. In explaining his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape, he said, “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
And what has happened since? In our survey of state and federal legislative action, we documented that politicians and political commentators continue to make the same remarks and they continue to introduce and enact legislation to stop women from getting abortion, including women who are pregnant due to rape. In fact, since state legislatures and Congress returned to work in January after the 2012 elections:
- 86 percent (235) of the 273 provisions that politicians introduced in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
- 71 percent (27) of the 38 state provisions restricting women’s access to abortion enacted by the states apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
- 72 percent (18) of the 25 bills introduced in Congress to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.
These restrictions include: forcing a woman who has been raped to carry her pregnancy to term; denying her insurance coverage for an abortion; forcing her to undergo a physically invasive ultrasound or listen to the fetal heartbeat; allowing hospitals to refuse to provide her an abortion; or forcing her to receive inaccurate and biased information designed to dissuade her from having an abortion.
(And although the report focuses on how these laws would apply to women who become pregnant due to rape, we have to take a moment to acknowledge that these types of abortion restrictions harm all women. The deeply personal decision whether to end a pregnancy should always rest with the women, no matter the reasons, never with politicians.)
A lot of people thought last year’s election was a watershed moment in which women expressed their views on abortion, birth control, and other important reproductive health issues. Election results, including the Presidency, were determined in large part by those issues. What this report proves is that this wasn’t resolved on Election Day and that we must continue to diligently watch what elected officials say and do ALWAYS. And, we must voice our support for women’s access to abortion.
Because when we don’t do this, they will never change.
If we want politicians to stop insulting women by taking away our ability to make our own health decisions and harming us by limiting our health care options it is up to us to shut them down.