Republicans Protect Rapists' Parental Rights in Alabama

[Content Note: Sexual violence; anti-choicery; rape apologia; hostility to consent.]

As I have regrettably had occasion to observe many, many times in this space over the last 14 years, the Republican Party does not have a solid history of taking sexual assault seriously, to put it mildly.

There was that time House Republicans tried to redefine rape so that it was only "real" rape if it involved force. Then there was the time that Senate Republicans blocked votes on military sexual assault legislation. There was that other time New York state Republicans blocked a proposal to eliminate the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse. And let's not forget that time when Georgia state Republicans didn't want to consider a proposal on rape kits and accused the Democratic sponsor of "politicizing" the issue to get votes.

There was that time former GOP Senator and two-time presidential candidate Rick Santorum said that pregnant rape victims should make the best out of a bad situation. And that time former GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin argued that pregnancy from rape is really rare, because "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." And that time Akin also accused women of lying about rape. And that time GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said that getting pregnant from rape is god's plan. And all the times Republicans have told women how to avoid getting ourselves raped, as if it's our responsibility to stop rapists rather than predators' responsibility to not rape people.

There's Joe Walsh. And John Koster. And Phil Gingrey. And Thomas Corbin. And Jonathan Stickland. And Roy Moore. And Blake Farenthold. Just the tip of the iceberg of Republican politicians who have said stupid shit about sexual assault and/or been accused of sexual assault themselves.

And then there's the current Republican president, whose opening salvo in his campaign was to call undocumented Mexican immigrants rapists; who compared trade deficits to rape — twice; who is himself a confessed serial sex abuser; and whose Secretary of Education has rewritten campus assault guidlines to favor predators; and whose Supreme Court justice was confirmed despite (or because of) credible allegations of sexual assault.

This is hardly a comprehensive list. The litany of examples of Republicans blocking legislation that would address sexual assault or support survivors, and of Republicans saying inappropriate things about rape and/or its victims, and of Republicans who have themselves engaged in sexual harassment and/or assault is interminable. And intolerable.

Which is all preface to say that it it not surprising, but it is nonetheless absolutely rage-making that the Republican Party of Alabama continues to protect rapists' parental rights while eroding pregnant people's bodily autonomy and rights to access a legal healthcare procedure to terminate their pregnancies.

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux at the Washington Post reports:
Alabama is one of two states with no statute terminating parental rights for a person found to have conceived the child by rape or incest, a fact that has gained fresh relevance since its lawmakers adopted the nation's strictest abortion ban in May. That statute even outlaws the procedure for victims of sexual assault and jails doctors who perform it, except in cases of serious risk to the woman’s health.

...Last month, Alabama lawmakers considered a bill that addressed ending parental rights in cases of rape that result in conception, but the legislature removed that language, limiting the law to cases in which people sexually assault their children. State Sen. Vivian Figures (D)...said she didn't know Alabama lacked a statute preventing rapists from gaining custody of their offspring but told The Washington Post that she now plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session.

"It's just...unfair and even dangerous to these mothers and children," said Figures, who voted against the state's abortion ban.
There is much more at the link.

Naturally, opponents of a law limiting rapists' access to children conceived via rape are relying on ancient narratives about women being liars who constantly allege rape fraudulently in order to defend not having a law that protects victims from having to maintain contact with men who raped them. Women, they say, will lie about having been raped in order to deny fathers access to their children.

Suffice it to say, these men's rights advocates are not concerned in the slightest about the possibility that rapists will leverage impregnating their victims in order to guarantee a lifetime of access to them, despite the fact that reproductive coercion is a documented endemic phenomenon, while women accusing men of rape to deny them parental rights is not.

Republicans' hostility to consent is legendary and central to their ideology. And we must be blunt about this: They are empowering rapists as part of their war on agency. This isn't just a fortunate byproduct of their contempt for women's agency; abetting rapists' control over women's reproduction is by design.

Republican leadership at any level of government is an urgent health crisis and a pressing safety issue for women. That is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact.

[Related Reading: #StopTheBans.]

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