A Woman’s Book of Choices, a book written in 1992 by pro-choice feminists Rebecca Chalker and Carol Downer, gives advice to women on how to obtain abortions if it becomes illegal except in cases of rape. The advice includes how to fake a miscarriage so a doctor will do an abortion, and advice on how to commit illegal abortions.
The authors also instruct women how to lie about rape so they still can get abortions if it is made generally illegal. First, the authors relate the experience of a woman who was seeking an abortion before Roe v. Wade:
Three successive doctors refused to help me, and I was getting pretty discouraged. Finally, the fourth one, a woman, said, “If you had been raped, I could do a D&C.” That’s all she said, but I got the message, and thought about what to do.
The next morning, I went to my local precinct and said that a month ago, a man forced me into his car at knife point in the parking lot of the grocery store just as it closed and that he drove me to a secluded area by a canal and forced me to have sex in the backseat. I told the sergeant that I was too scared to fight, and that when I was driving around afterward, I noticed that the door handle was missing – most likely removed. The sergeant liked that little detail a lot and started to get interested.
He was very annoyed that I had waited a whole month to report such a serious incident, but I said it’d taken me that long to get up the nerve to do it, and he seemed to accept that. In spite of the time lapse, he wanted me to have a medical examination, so I agreed if I could be seen by my own doctor, and he agreed. So, I went back to the doctor I had seen earlier with a copy of the police report. After having a positive pregnancy test, she sent me to a psychiatrist, and both of them submitted reports to a hospital committee and recommended that I get an abortion.(1)
We already have a society in which rape victims are not always believed when they report instances of assault. If a great deal of women start lying about rape, this will hurt all women, as reports prove false make it more difficult for true victims to be believed. Women who really were raped will suffer from a backlash and a new climate of doubt.
The authors acknowledge this possibility, but still suggest lying about rape to get abortions:
Only in desperate situations – such as women may find themselves in in the future if states ban abortions except for certain reasons such as rape – should women even consider resorting to faking rape. Doing so has the potential to undermine the gains of the movement against violence against women which has worked to overcome the myth used by hostile prosecutors and judges that women who report rape cannot be trusted.
However, a time and place can be envisioned were a woman, her doctor, and sympathetic authorities would be forced to go through a charade of a rape complaint about some unknown, unidentifiable assailant in order to get around hypocritical, restrictive laws.(2)
There is a difficulty enforcing a rape exception when we don’t know if women are lying. However, babies conceived in rape are just as valuable and have just as much a right to live as babies conceived through consensual sex. And abortion hurts women, even rape victims. Studies also show that mothers who choose life after conceiving due to rape do not regret having their children, whereas those who abort often regret it.
The practice of lying about rape also endangers innocent men, who may be accused of the crime. It wastes police time and resources, meaning there are fewer resources to investigate legitimate crimes. Lying about rape is clearly harmful to society and to women, as well as men.
There is a precedent for lies about rape in the abortion debate. Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, whose case was used to legalize abortion, admitted that she lied about being gang raped. She concocted her story of rape to seem more sympathetic as a plaintiff, and much of the country believed her. McCorvey said in an interview:
I told the attorneys that I had been raped in hopes that it would speed things up in the court system. However, the wheels of justice turn remotely very slow and a woman can just stay pregnant for so long.
McCorvey was never able to have an abortion — she placed her daughter with an adoptive family — and later became pro-life.
- Rebecca Chalker, Carol Downer A Woman’s Book of Choices (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1992) 39
- Ibid., 39-40
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