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When Will Republicans Stop Saying Dumb Things About Rape? (Hint: When They Stop Hating Women)

Glib comments about rape by anti-choice Republican lawmakers reveal that the anti-choice movement is deeply rooted in antagonism to women's rights.
 
 
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No big surprise that it was in Kansas, which has struggled with the most serious anti-choice terrorism in the country in the 21 st century, where a GOP state legislator named Pete DeGraaf compared being forcibly impregnated by a rapist to getting a flat tire.  DeGraaf was responding to a pro-choice Republican legislator who raised the question of women being unable to afford to terminate pregnancies caused by rape, and DeGraaf responded by suggesting women should have prepared ahead of time for rape by saying, “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?”, adding, “I have a spare tire on my car.” 

DeGraaf’s glib response to his pro-choice colleague demonstrated the deeply misogynist underpinnings of anti-choice beliefs.  Let us count the various misogynist beliefs exposed by this comment, which is sadly quite typical of the mindless sexism espoused by anti-choicers.  

The belief that rape is no big deal. DeGraaf is far from the only anti-choicer who has exhibited this callousness towards rape victims.  In fact, callousness towards rape victims that belies an underlying misogyny is a regular feature of anti-choice rhetoric: 

  • During the midterm campaign season, the GOP challenger for Harry Reid’s seat, Sharron Angle, advised rape victims to avoid abortion, saying they could turn “lemon situation into lemonade”.
  • Idaho state representative Brent Crane supported a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, saying that rape was the “hand of the Almighty” at work, and that women forced to bear the children of rapists are “wonderful examples’.
  • Indiana state legislator Eric Turner went with the women-are-liars argument, arguing against rape exceptions for a post-20 week ban on the grounds that women will wait around for 5 months to get an abortion and then claim, falsely, to have been raped to get one.
  • South Dakota legislator Bill Napoli declared that a rape victim only deserved an abortion if she were religious, virginal, beaten within an inch of her life, and added that the rape should include anal rape for good measure. 

The belief that women are stupid children.

DeGraaf’s chuckling assumption that a woman who is raped and unable to pay for an abortion has only herself to blame for lack of foresight betrays a larger view of women as overgrown children who only get into trouble because they don’t know any better.  DeGraaf argues that women wouldn’t buy entirely separate insurance just for abortion because they’re stupid, but in fact, the expectation of a separate abortion policy is what makes no sense.  Insurance policies generally cover a whole range of possible misfortunes.  You don’t have to buy a separate policy to cover burglaries and to cover fires; both are bundled into your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance.  Subsequently, women are reasonable to expect that the same policies that cover you when you accidentally fall down the stairs should cover you when you accidentally fall pregnant. DeGraaf’s completely backwards reading of the situation---turning women’s entirely reasonable expectations into evidence of their stupidity---betrays a deeply held prejudice about women’s basic intelligence. 

The idea that women are stupid drives many anti-choice initiatives.  For instance, laws requiring women to look at ultrasounds before getting abortions carry the assumption that women are literally too stupid to understand that abortion terminates pregnancy. In real life, of course, women seek abortion because it terminates pregnancy, and aren’t going to be surprised when the doctor says, “And there’s the embryo that we’ll be removing so you won’t be having a baby.”    

The belief that women aren’t really the same thing as people. Anti-choicers have always worked to define health care that addresses only women’s concerns as not being “real” health care, unlike men’s health care.  The most prominent example of this is the Hyde Amendment, which excludes abortion from being covered by Medicaid on the claim that pregnancy isn’t a medical condition and therefore terminating it doesn’t count as medical care.   

 
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