Texas Abortion Explainer (copy)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in defending Texas' near-ban on abortions, says women and girls who are raped won't be forced to give birth because the new law "provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion."

RICHMOND — Greg Abbott’s views on women, rape and abortion would be embarrassing if they weren’t so alarming.

Clearly, the governor of Texas is not pro-choice, which is his personal right, but he’s not pro-women either. And his promise to “get all rapists off the streets” so that no female in Texas will ever be attacked again? Then, no one will need to think about abortion, said he. It’s child-like thinking.

Also, the governor apparently doesn’t know — or doesn’t care to know — that many rapes are committed in the homes of married people. One can’t quite imagine how he proposes to remove from the bedroom those husbands who rape their wives. Or get the family to give up the brother who’s raping the sister, who doesn’t dare mention her bedroom nightmare.

Marital rape is a second-degree felony in Texas, with two to 20 years in prison. All 50 states have similar laws. In Texas, marital rape was exempted as a crime until 1994. Just for reference, rape was a capital offense in ancient Rome and Greece — no one has yet succeeded in eliminating rapists.

Abbott’s six-week time slot for getting an abortion is ridiculous — and demonstrates ignorance — as many experts have pointed out. Few women, partly because of the vagaries of the menstrual cycle, know within six weeks whether they are pregnant. That was among the facts of life pointed out by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a remarkable biology lesson on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s program the other night.

While the right-to-life people may think the Lone Star State has taken a huge step in the right direction, the fact remains that Abbott’s new law infringes on women’s constitutional rights. If that’s legal, then what’s next?

But, in the meantime, a very clever wording of the new law puts enforcement in the hands of the public. The driver who takes a woman to an abortion clinic, the nurse who is present, the agency that sent the woman, the father or mother or sister-in-law of the pregnant person — any or all of these people can do their vigilante duty and take action.

Talk about government by fear. Clinics have been put on notice and are afraid to see patients. Is a taxi driver subject to a suit if he drives a woman to a clinic? Apparently. And whoever sues him, gets a minimum payment of $10,000 plus legal fees if the suit is successful. It’s the defendant who will pay — and thus anyone and everyone can become a bounty hunter. In addition, these will be civil suits in which the defendant is guilty until proved innocent, a scary reversal.

When a women seeking an abortion has to leave the state where she lives, that immediately introduces the question of equality. Those who can afford to travel will, and those who have no resources will not. The law discriminates against the less fortunate and may bring back the old practice of illegal and dangerous abortions. In addition, residents of another state can sue a person who helps a Texan get an abortion.

On top of everything else, it is impossible to imagine what it would be like to carry a child created by the worst of women’s nightmares — an encounter with a sex-crazed stranger with all its pain and horror. It is also hard to imagine what it would be like to be the husband of that rape victim, watching his wife’s belly expand and trying to face the fact that he will be part of bringing up a child born of that violation of his wife.

And then, one wonders what the process of “getting them (rapists) off the streets” might be, especially since experts agree that the victims of sexual assault or rape often know the assailant. In 2019, 98,109 cases of rape were reported in the United States, more than 14,000 of them in Texas. It was the highest number in the states, but in terms of the governor’s threat to rapists, charges were brought in only 23.7 percent of the reported cases. (To be statistically fair, when the numbers are analyzed in terms of population, Alaska easily came in as No. 1.)

Pro-choice people don’t want to have an abortion. They want women to have control of their reproductive rights, as provided by the Constitution. Gov. Abbott’s new law increases the restrictions on that freedom and cruelly turns enforcement over to the general public. Not unlike stoning or lynching.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her web site is www.ruthbass.com.