Guest Editorials, Opinion

After forced-birth laws for minors, GOP pretends it isn’t happening

When The Indianapolis Star reported that a 10-year-old rape victim had to travel to Indiana for an abortion because of the abortion ban in her home state of Ohio, it sounded like the kind of worst-case scenario that abortion rights advocates had warned would come with the fall of Roe v. Wade. It sounded so much like it, in fact, that right-wing media, congressional conservatives and even Ohio’s top prosecutor declared it a bogus story. Then the 27-year-old alleged rapist was arrested.

Even without such vivid confirmation arising so quickly, common sense dictates that this hellish dilemma for women and girls is a real one in the post-Roe world. Those who intentionally created that dilemma are disingenuous to pretend now that it isn’t happening.

It’s not surprising that this story was initially hard to corroborate. Privacy laws are strict regarding medical records and juveniles. But anti-choice voices were remarkably quick to declare the lack of information as being proof of a “hoax,” as one Fox News pundit called it. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted that the story was a “lie,” then quietly deleted the tweet after it turned out to be true. A headline on a Wall Street Journal editorial declared it “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm.”

After the alleged rapist’s arrest, the Journal, to its credit, ran a follow-up editorial essentially acknowledging they got it wrong. Most others haven’t.

But why were anti-choice forces so eager to debunk the story in the first place? This outcome — inhibiting virtually all abortion services, even for child rape victims — is the stated goal of these laws across red state America. Yes, the girl’s age was shocking, but would it be more palatable had the victim been 13, or 16? In their backlash against the story, the supporters of these laws seemed to be suggesting that the very proposition that minors could be impregnated by rapists and then denied abortion services is somehow unbelievable.

It’s not only believable, it’s inevitable. And most of the time, the public won’t even know about it. Given those aforementioned privacy laws, there’s no reason to suppose that other cases like this aren’t unfolding below the media radar right now. Now Indiana’s Republican attorney general says he’s investigating the doctor who performed the girl’s abortion, as if to add a bizarre new political twist to this sordid tale.

Denying any woman the right to control her own body is egregious. But denying that right to a child who has been raped is positively dystopian. The desperate attempts to discredit and politicize this story indicate that, at some level, even many in the anti-choice movement understand that. If legislators in Missouri and other red states aren’t willing to own the prospect of forced birth by already-traumatized children as the unavoidable result of their anti-choice absolutism, they have an obligation to carve out exceptions for rape victims and for minors.

This editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.