By Molly Redden
Opponents of reproductive rights had a busy 2013. By the end of June, state lawmakers had passed 43 abortion restrictions into law—as many restrictions as were enacted in all of 2012, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights think tank. By August, when many state legislatures had wrapped up their 2013 session, lawmakers had introduced more than 300 abortion restrictions, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Defending these restrictions inspired a string of public figures to make foot-in-mouth statements about women, their choices, and their bodies. Below, we’ve assembled the worst of these comments.
Pregnancy from rape is too rare too justify rape exceptions to abortion bans.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) sponsored the year\’s most high-profile abortion restriction—a House bill to ban all abortions in the United States at 20 weeks after conception. So it’s only appropriate that he uttered the most notorious abortion-related gaffe of the year: “The incidence of pregnancy resulting from rape are very low.”
Franks made that statement in June, by way of explaining to the House Judiciary Committee why it wasn’t necessary to amend the bill to include an exception for women who became pregnant by rape or incest. (In fact, women who are victims of rape frequently become pregnant.) But his comment generated so much backlash that, a few days later, Republicans quietly amended the bill to add an exception for rape and incest victims. Franks’ bill passed the House but was never taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate. A spokesman for Franks told Talking Points Memo later that the congressman meant to say that abortions of pregnancies that resulted from rape were rare.
Rape is like a car accident: It calls for “extra insurance.”
Legislation that banned Obamacare health insurance plans from covering abortion was all the rage this year. Nearly half of all statehouses passed some form of a measure forcing women who wanted abortion coverage to purchase it as a separate abortion-only policy, called a rider.
Some of these state laws, including one the Michigan Legislature passed this month, did not include exceptions allowing insurance to cover abortions in cases of rape or incest. This May, when asked why should women be forced to pay extra to cover their abortions in these cases, Barbara Listing, the president of Michigan Right to Life, explained, “It’s simply, like, nobody plans to have an accident in a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. You have to buy extra insurance for those.”
Listing’s statement generated a lot of outrage—but it didn’t matter to Michigan legislators, who passed the ban anyway.
Male fetuses masturbate at 15 weeks—proving the need for an abortion ban.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said as much while defending that same 20-week abortion ban that inspired Franks to doubt that rape causes pregnancy. Burgess, who is a pro-life OB-GYN, told a House committee that he was positive fetuses could feel pain at 20 weeks after conception, despite a medical consensus to the contrary: “Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” he said. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. They feel pleasure. Why is it so hard to think that they could feel pain?”