On rape, it’s not the end of the discussion


To the Editor:

Not on Martha’s Vineyard? One in seven adult women in Massachusetts has been a victim of rape in her lifetime (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey/CDC – 2011). During my previous work at Women’s Support Services, the Vineyard statistics were no different from the statewide numbers.

And nationally, 1.3 million women were raped in 2010 (NISVS/CDC). The widely-cited study in 1996 by the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that five percent of rape victims became pregnant. In 2010 numbers, that would be more than 65,000 women. These are staggering statistics.

During these lovely days of summer, it’s hard to read the remarks by the Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri, Todd Akin. He has brought rape front and center. Mr. Akin referred to “legitimate rape” and said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The Republican Party leadership has dropped Akin like a hot potato and refused to continue funding his campaign. Is that the end? Sadly, it is not. We need to remember that Mr. Akin has been working closely with Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, to redefine rape. Mr. Ryan and Mr. Akin co-sponsored a “personhood” bill that would not only prohibit rape survivors from seeking an abortion but would treat terminating a pregnancy that results from rape as a homicide.

Mr. Ryan and Mr. Akin joined together on a bill to prevent Medicaid recipients who are raped from obtaining an abortion unless they are victims of what their bill called “forcible rape.” (Generally, rape, by definition, is penetration without consent). In the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan co-sponsored a total of 38 anti-abortion measures, including several allowing no exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Even if you are against abortion, it seems unthinkable in the 21st century that we would make a woman who becomes pregnant from rape carry her rapist’s baby.

Every day women face decisions on health, safety, protection, and services. The Republican platform has chosen a position that women cannot make their own decisions — that such decisions need to be legislated. Why is that?

I would hope that we would consider how such a party’s position limits our sisters’, mothers’, and daughters’ ability to live as equal, respected and contributing members of our community and our nation.

Please, let us show our sense of community and our compassion by opposing this position by the Republican Party, restricting the rights of women, which will also affect men, children, families, and the community.

Ann Wallace