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Jan 24 2013

Republican lawmaker wants to criminalize aborting your rape baby because it’s “tampering with evidence”

I’d say it’s a new low for Republicans, but really, it’s their usual low:

A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial.

House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), would charge a rape victim who ended her pregnancy with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”

“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,” the bill says.

Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

But don’t worry, Cathrynn Brown! I know you’re not a geneticist so this wouldn’t have occurred to you, but I have the solution to your problem. You can do paternity analysis using the DNA from an aborted fetus, the placenta, or (thanks to new technology produced from my very own department) fetal cells that are circulating in the mother’s blood. Why, you don’t need a live baby at all! It’s a win win situation. Women aren’t forced to give birth to and raise their rapist’s child as some sort of bizarre punishment for being raped, and evidence is still obtained to identify rapists.

I’m sure Rep. Brown will rescind the bill now that science has come to the rescue. It’s not as if this is actually some underhanded attempt to outlaw abortions, right?

30 comments

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  1. 1
    Cuttlefish

    I should think Rep. Brown will be overjoyed, now that there you have shown her a way to be more careful with chain of custody issues. DNA evidence can be locked away under armed guard, tamper-free, and not taken who-knows-where along with the victim’s womb.

  2. 2
    didgen

    I wonder how they’re going to store the “evidence” when the rapist isn’t known? The property clerk’s are going to get a lot less sleep at night.

  3. 3
    sonjaphillips

    I would like to think the intention here was to prevent the rapists from forcing their victims into have abortions to get rid of evidence of their crime.

    However, the way it is worded will lead to exactly what you spell out here….the victim will be charged if she attempts to have the abortion as tampering with evidence.

    I”m not a word-smith so I wont even try to offer a better wording, but this currently has bad ju-ju written all over it.

  4. 4
    mythbri

    @sonja

    I’m pretty sure that forcing someone to undergo a medical procedure against their will is already against the law. If that was their intention, then this is an unnecessary bill.

  5. 5
    Wilson Afonso

    Well, the next obvious step is to prevent people who have been shot from removing the bullet from their bodies. If the wound heals, what evidence do you have that it even happened?

  6. 6
    heliconia

    “Evidence of the crime”? But Legitimate Rape doesn’t cause pregnancy!
    /snark

  7. 7
    IslandBrewer

    Science …. Republican politician.

    [I am sighing very very audibly. Can you hear it through the inter-tubes?]

  8. 8
    machintelligence

    One should not impute malice where stupidity will suffice
    but… Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

  9. 9
    Joy Westgate-Scherer

    I had the impression that this might be used as a end run around that pesky “rape/incest exception” that so many people seem to support.

  10. 10
    schweinhundt

    Rep. Cathrynn Brown’s response to the WTF? Storm sparked by her bill:

    House Bill 206 was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims. Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist—not the victim—would be charged with tampering of evidence. I am submitting a substitute draft to make the intent of the legislation abundantly clear.

    I truly don’t know if she is actually clarifying intent or just covering tracks. Either way, seems like this is more likely to reduce the number of reported rapes than the number of abortions performed.

    Link: http://www.nmtelegram.com/2013/01/24/bill-criminalizes-abortions-in-case-of-rape/

  11. 11
    IslandBrewer

    Wait, so … if the victim has an abortion … the rapist is charged with (hopefully the rape and) tampering with evidence? Because he (as loathsome as he may be and deserving of punishment for the rape) needs to be charged with something he didn’t do (ie, getting the abortion)?

    Huh?

    Does joining the Republican party make people think like this?

  12. 12
    Nick Gotts

    I can think of situations in which it would be right to charge a rapist, or accomplice to rape, with “attempting to pervert the course of justice” (in the British phrase), by arranging an abortion for the victim, even if the latter wanted the abortion: a pimp controlling women or children forced into prostitution, for example. But I’d be surprised if this was not already possible under New Mexican law.

  13. 13
    Nick Gotts

    In the same spirit as the proposed law, seeking prophylaxis for or treatment of any sexually transmitted infections resulting from a rape should also quite clearly be outlawed: vital evidence could thus be lost. Or is the woman’s body capable of shutting these infections down as well in cases of legitimate rape?

  14. 14
    Gregory in Seattle

    I just hope neither Rep. Brown, her daughters or her granddaughers are forced to experience the consequences of such a law.

  15. 15
    glodson

    This is the second time I’ve read an article on this bill. The second time I’ve tried to come up with a coherent response that isn’t rage filled. And I still can’t do it. This is just… fuck, it is just an insanely evil bill.

  16. 16
    hiro

    Dang, I thought we had all those wackos in the Southwest corralled here in Arizona but one must have slithered over the border into New Mexico. Sorry Folks. Please return Brown to the nearest AZ fruit and vegetable inspection station and we’ll take it from there.

  17. 17
    boadinum

    Hi Jen, it’s great to to see that you’re blogging again on a more regular basis. We need far more voices like yours, and far fewer like that of Cathrynn “Babies iz evidence” Brown. Just when I think they can’t boggle my mind any more…

    Be well, and nil carborundrum illegitimus.

  18. 18
    tynk

    So, this law is based on ignorance/religion and fear. But I could see a way that is at least understandable. I believe her intent was for the perpetrator of the rape not being allowed to get an abortion herself as it would be tampering with evidence. In other words, the teacher and statutory rape.

    The problem is, you still end up with a child who will eventually find out they are only alive because they were evidence.

  19. 19
    Christoph Burschka

    …yup. Republicans still got it.

  20. 20
    formerfetus

    Human Embryology long ago declared the US Supreme Court “Roe vs. Wade” ruling as invalid because that ruling hinged on the court not being able to define when human life began. Human embryologists definitively state human life, and personhood begin, at conception.

    Abortion therefore should no longer be legal. But your U.S. law is slow to correct itself just when it once declared a black man had only 3/5 the worth of a white man, or some other ridiculous conclusion. How long did it take for blacks to achieve equality? 100 or more years?

    Even the Russians laugh at America, now: http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/19-11-2012/122849-obama_soviet_mistake-0/

    The future is pro-life. Learn in advance to co-operate with it.

    Unfortunately, your new tech is useless without a known father.

  21. 21
    lordshipmayhem

    Why is it whenever I think the religious right has hit rock bottom, they manage to find a nice sharp shovel and dig even deeper? (sigh)

  22. 22
    Abdul Alhazred

    My analysis, FWIW.
    “Tampering with evidence” is a pretext not a reason.
    The pretext is what he thinks will fly politically and legally.
    The reason is the usual.

  23. 23
    Holms

    This goes beyond the ‘usual business’ for Republicans and well into ‘bunch of fuckheads’ land.

  24. 24
    SnowyBiscuit

    @mythbri : I’m pretty sure that forcing someone to undergo a medical procedure against their will is already against the law.

    I dunno — Virginia passed that law requiring women to have a vaginal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion.

    There are no depths the wackos won’t plumb to reach their aims, is there?

  25. 25
    Jesse M.

    Formerfetus,

    Personhood is not a science term for a special stage of fetal development. This is why an organism like Creature from Dr. Frankenstein would be considered a person, even though he did not go through any stage of fetal development. In the same vein, this is why an adult dog is not a person, even though it has gone through every stage of fetal development.

    Personhood is not a science term for a special set of genetic codes. This is why an extraterrestrial driving a spaceship would be considered a person, even though it does not have a genetic code like our own. In the same vein, this is why piercing ears is not considered murder, even though the piercing destroys cells that contain human DNA.

    Personhood is a philosophy term. If human embryologists reached a concensus that personhood begins at conception, then they would have proved only that they are not good at doing philosophy. However, we are fortunate, because they are not as absurd as you picture them. There is no such concensus.

  26. 26
    formerfetus

    Well, Jesse ya’ missed the whole point of the article. Personhood USED TO BE defined only by philosophy.

    However, with the advances in biology, that even lowly politicians recognize, Diane, as a research biochemist/biologist was being asked to provide her professional input around the issues of human cloning…to a House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment.

    Unless, you don’t think her scientific conclusion belonged there, influencing American public policy?

    Dianne notes:

    “There is unquestionably a scientific consensus that the life of every single individual human being begins at fertilization as a single-cell human embryo (the zygote). I have included in my written testimony scores of scientific footnotes and references, from many different, highly acclaimed and the most commonly used human embryology text books, and have included the xeroxed pages from a number of these text books with my written testimony to demonstrate this scientific fact. What is true of the product of fertilization is true of the product of human cloning.”

    Still confused? Need to argue? You’re on your own~

  27. 27
    Jesse M.

    Formerfetus,

    You are behaving as though ‘life’ and ‘personhood’ have the same meaning, even though they do not. It should be clear that, just as all tigers are felines does not mean all felines are tigers, all the things which have personhood are life forms does not mean that all life forms have personhood. There are many things which are life forms but which do not have personhood, such as shrubs, slugs, and sea anemones.

    If you read more closely the material you quoted, you will see that they were using the terms ‘life’ (where even slug blastocysts are classified as life) and ‘human being’ (where the term refers to any life form which is of the species Homo sapien sapien). They did not use the words ‘person’, ‘personhood’, ‘personality’, or any other term which is relevant to your argument.

    As far as science is concerned, human blastocysts are groups of cells that contain molecules, nothing more, which gives them no more claim to ‘personhood’ than slug blastocysts. The only way to believe that human blastocysts have personhood is to believe in spiritualism, animism, panpsychism, or some other metaphysics that makes certain molecules categorically different from other molecules. That is philosophy, not science.

    There is no concensus on personhood in the field of human embryology, because the field has no concensus on any system of metaphysics related to the question of personhood. There is no such concensus among philosophers either. If you want to believe in a system of metaphysics that makes certain molecules categorically different from other molecules, then more power to you, but that does not give you the right to claim that human embryology has reached a concensus on personhood, because that is just plain false.

  28. 28
    benjaminlash

    Welcome back Jen!

  29. 29
    lee coye

    The first half of the bill’s wording:

    Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion

    Refers (I think) to the fact that AZ, among 27 other states, “requires that women under 18 years old seeking an abortion must either have the notarized written permission of one of their parents/legal guardian or permission from a Superior Court Judge.” [PP-AZ, inc].

    Enforcing such a law would entail requiring PP or doctors to, at least, interview women under 18 for signs of coercion/social pressure(or require some sort of process to beyond simply rubber-stamping the parental consent form). By making the abortive procedure one with legal risks, this lends teeth to the ethical concern regards rape by family members, giving (potentially) a voice to the victims.

    The whole premise of being pro-choice entails that such choices be un-coerced, but there is no process for differentiating so-called “free” choices from social/physical/psychological coercion-induced choice. The assumption appears to be that any rape/incest victim would necessarily desire an abortion, but while the evidence is scarce, what there is appears to support the idea that some significant number of victims would(and do, after 18) freely choose to keep the child.

    Claims that the fetal tissue can be analyzed are bogus, frankly, since the article in the New Scientist refers to sampling fetal cells flowing through the placenta into the mother’s blood, cells that won’t last beyond the abortion(and incineration) of the fetus.

    The problem with this over-the-top demonisation of someone identified as of the “wrong” political party, and thus can be adduced to posses all manner of evil intentions, guarantees that nothing even close to this will be proposed for some time to come. The intent is not to lock up victims, but to unchain them from the coercion that makes a mockery of the “choice” of, presumably, millions of women in the care of abusive “legal guardians”.

    Whether you agree with Mrs. Brown on abortion or not, I think we can all agree that being coerced or pressured into aborting your child, by those you view to be authority figures, is an evil we should take seriously. Especially if we fancy ourselves “pro-choice” in every sense of the word.

  30. 30
    creative biogene

    Rep. Cathrynn Brown – face of the GOP. Is she a cousin of Todd Akin?

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