Earlier today, I came across this article in The Atlantic arguing that “rape exceptions” in anti-abortion legislation do far more harm than good to the state of women’s reproductive rights when put into practice and are not a “better than nothing” alternative to full abortion rights. The article presents a hypothetical case of a state enacting such legislation and questions the state’s ability to enforce such a law. “How will women claim their “rape exception?” it asks. Would women have to prove that they have in fact been raped in order to terminate their pregnancy? Women are victims of rape at levels highly exceeding those of men. Additionally, over half -about 54%- of sexual assaults go unreported, often because “women fear repercussions from their abusers.” How, then, can a policy such as this one as espoused by leading conservative politicians today be seen as progressive at all?
If we students are serious about fighting for women’s rights and combating patriarchy, we must do more than simply sit in class and break down these issues; we must actively engage ourselves in the political process. Bell Hooks’ piece, “Seduced By Violence No More,” points to our collective participation in “rape culture” as a major obstacle to meaningful progress in the feminist movement, specifically citing the severity of the issue among African-American men. While this is arguably a social problem which would be impossible to solve politically, I can’t imagine that electing officials such as Tod Akin and Paul Ryan (both white men staunchly opposed to abortions) to represent us signifies a step in the right direction. Doing nothing to educate likely voters about candidates’ stances on reproductive rights, and of course not voting, are tantamount to passively supporting the advancement of patriarchy and the further marginalization of the feminist movement.
“Seduced By Violence No More,” Chapter 10 in Bell Hooks’ book “Outlaw Culture”
“The Problem With Rape Exceptions,” The Atlantic web version, 2 November, 2012. (http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/11/the-problem-with-rape-exceptions/264470/#)