This piece first appeared on HG February 6, 2013
Your Uterus Can Be Your Very Own Evidence Locker
We all say something stupid now and again. Sometimes when we do, it can be unintentionally hurtful. But when New Mexico State Representative Cathrynn Brown (R) said that women who get an abortion after being raped were “tampering with evidence,” and wrote it into legislation that she’s trying to push through as House Bill 206, she managed to combine stupid and hurtful things into a giant ball of WTFWHYWOULDYOUDOTHAT.
The bill states, “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.” I knew my uterus had a lot of uses (making lining, shedding lining, chipping away at my will to live in the process), but I never thought of it as an evidence repository! I can keep all sorts of stuff in it and stop wasting money on purses! Why is there no legislation making it mandatory to keep Ziploc bags up our vaginas in case of rape, so the fetus can develop in an even more un-tamperable state? You know, FOR EVIDENCE.
First of all, if a newborn is going to be used as evidence in a rape case, genetic testing will have to be involved (until House Bill 206B is introduced, requiring the child to be 18 before they can be used as evidence, to see if they kinda sorta look like the rapist – they’ll have to live in a Ziploc bag until then). Genetic material can be taken from a fetus, aborted or not, so that seems like a moot point. Second of all, the legal process for rape cases is long enough without putting up another road block and time constraint, especially when 97% or rapists never spend a day in jail. But yeah, we should focus on legislating vaginas more to prevent rape, not more stringent prosecution laws for sex offenders.
Cathrynn Brown said in a statement that her goal with this bill was to punish the person who commits incest or rape and then procures/facilitates and abortion to destroy the evidence. How charmingly specific of her. Clearly she meant well (you know, like when you get your 3-year-old niece a set of razorblades to play with, because girls love shiny things). Apparently New Mexico has had a rash of rapist-forced-abortions lately. And once you get rid of the “evidence” of a fetus, all you have left is a woman’s word and sometimes stuff with semen on it, which, let’s face it, is nowhere near as fun as forcing someone to have a child she doesn’t want to have after having been the victim of a violent sexual assault. Oddly, the legislation doesn’t contain specifics on whether or not the “evidence” will be treated differently than is standard, ie. kept locked up and disposed of after trial.
Oh yeah, Brown wasn’t done. She also said, “New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders. By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state. “ From what, making their own choicesabout their violated bodies? They clearly didn’t get to do that while being raped, not sure if treating them as walking filing cabinets is really going to help with that. If you want to deter sex offenders, enforce punishments and stop letting the bulk of them walk away with a slap on the wrist and sense of entitlement to keep assaulting people.
Not to mention, while rape mostly affects women, it also affects men, so legislation enforcing harsher punishments is directed at all rapists, whereas this fetal nonsense only focuses on assaults against women, specifically women who get pregnant. Kind of a niche audience, which seems somewhat discriminative. In fact, if Brown’s goal is to punish rapists, then she’s going about it in a very specific way, making the victims bear the brunt of the consequence. The fact that Brown is on the board of Carlsbad’s Right to Life chapter (a pro-life organization) raises the question of whether HB 206 is about the law, or finding a roundabout way of enforcing personal religious beliefs through it.
The bill is unlikely to pass, as Brown is a Republican in a state with a Democratic majority. It’s a small comfort in light of the thought that while there are more prominent issues to tackle (unemployment, public education, why pumpkin pie is seasonal in this day and age), there are still plenty of politicians who would rather focus on “helping” women by tightening a chokehold on their personal rights. Rape and abortion are not permanently intertwined, and using one to legislate the other is adding insult to injury while infringing on legal rights and making consequences harsher for victimsinstead of perpetrators.