This Teen Was Raped in a State That Has an Abortion Exception. She Still Couldn’t Get One.
Carter Sherman 12-2-22
Legally, if you get pregnant after being raped in Mississippi, you should be able to get an abortion. Although the state has banned almost all abortions, it does permit them in cases of rape. But when a teenager there recently became pregnant through rape, her parents still had to take her to Illinois for an abortion. The last clinic in Mississippi had already closed.
“It was the ugliest feeling explaining to the doctor that delivered your child that she was raped, and then him telling you he can’t do anything to help you. He gave me the number to the Louisiana clinic,” the mother of the unnamed teenager told a local Mississippi news outlet in late November. That clinic, too, had closed, thanks to that state’s abortion ban. There were simply no abortion clinics close by.
Long held up as common-sense compromises by Republican politicians and grudgingly tolerated by anti-abortion activists, abortion bans with exceptions for rape and incest have now become something of an endangered species. Abortion bans in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas—practically all of the South—have zero exceptions for incest or rape.
But even when laws do allow abortions in cases of rape and incest, experts told VICE News that, in reality, they rarely work. Now that Roe v. Wade has fallen and abortion bans have snapped into place, it’s simply not financially feasible for clinics to stay open in states with bans, because there just aren’t enough patients. And when a rape victim is allowed to get an abortion, they may be asked to navigate a series of logistically arduous, emotionally wrenching obstacles.
When states started loosening their bans on abortion in the 1960s, many agreed to let people seek abortions in cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies. After the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, rendering that that trifecta of exceptions unnecessary, anti-abortion activists spent decades chipping away at Roe—but still tended to leave rape and incest exceptions alone. Many believed that a fetus conceived through rape was still a baby, worthy of protecting against abortion, but the movement usually recognized that such a position wasn’t exactly politically tenable. Towards the twilight of the Roe era, as the movement grew ever more powerful and conservatives’ grip on the Supreme Court tightened, anti-abortion activists pushed for what they really wanted: the end of rape and incest exceptions.