A group called the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Pregnant by Sexual Assault (WPSA) is responding to the national debate about rape and abortion. The debate re-started thanks to controversial comments Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin made about “forcible rape.”
Heather Wilson, Deana Schroeder and other members of The Ad Hoc Committee of Women Pregnant By Sexual Assault have penned a column in response. They are demanding that their voices be heard and upset that many assume women who became pregnant after rape want an abortion.
Their column follows:
We are members of the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Pregnant by Sexual Assault (WPSA). This group was formed eight years ago to petition Congress to hold hearings on the issue of abortion in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. So far, however, this petition has not been heard by political leaders on either side of the aisle, or by most in the pro-choice or pro-life communities.
Many people have strong opinions about abortion in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. However, the real experiences and needs of women who have actually experienced pregnancies from sexual assault are often ignored, even though our experiences are frequently used to promote abortion on demand.
Recently, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding remarks made by Congressman Todd Akin about abortion and rape. From the perspective of those of us who have actually been through a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, people on both sides of the abortion debate, and the media fanning the flames of this controversy, are getting it wrong.
On one side are those who argue that pregnancies resulting from rape and incest occur so rarely that we shouldn’t let it impact public policy on abortion. This is hurtful to women who do become pregnant from rape or incest and who need support. It can also lead to questioning as to whether a woman or girl is telling the truth about being raped.
On the other side are those who perpetuate the myth that women and girls who become pregnant from sexual assault overwhelmingly want, need and benefit from having abortions. This also hurts women and fans the flames of prejudice toward those who do not want to have an abortion, even leading some to question whether a woman or girl who wishes not to abort has “really” been raped. And it can lead to strong pressure to abort by those who think the woman or girl does not know what is really best for her.
Despite the belief that most women in such circumstances would want an abortion, a national study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that only half of those who became pregnant from rape had an abortion. Another survey of pregnant sexual assault victims found that only 30 percent had abortions.
Whether the true number is closer to 30 or 50 percent doesn’t matter. What matters is that women and girls who become pregnant from rape or incest need real support and resources that meet their needs. In many cases, however, these needs are not met because most people assume that abortion will solve the problem.
In fact, there are no studies proving that this claimed psychological benefit occurs in general, or even for certain groups of women pregnant by sexual assault. And from personal experience, many of us discovered that abortion only added to our trauma and created additional obstacles to finding healing.
Many people naturally fear themselves or someone they love being raped, or becoming pregnant as a result of rape. We have been on the other side of that fear. From our perspective the issues and emotions involved are not as straightforward as most people presume. This is why those of us who have actually been in this situation need and deserve to be heard.
Delving into these issues properly requires more than time and space that can be given to it here. And that is exactly why we are calling for Congressional hearings to give us a chance to finally be heard.
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It is our hope that the media attention given to this controversy over Rep. Akin’s comments will present an opportunity to break through the barricades preventing us from being heard.
Women who have had pregnancies resulting from sexual assault should be given a leadership role in discussing this important issue. However, most of the debate surrounding this issue has taken place without input from us or other women like us.
We are especially concerned — and offended — when our circumstances are exploited to promote abortion on demand, especially when there is no platform being offered for us to voice our real needs and concerns.
Our situation is not uncommon, and our needs are worthy of public notice and discussion in terms of public policy and health care directives.
The members of WPSA do not claim to know all the answers to this difficult issue. But we are certain that people on both sides of the abortion debate need to listen and learn from those of us who have actually been there and struggled with these issues. Otherwise, those who do become pregnant through sexual assault will continue to be overlooked and will fail to receive the support they need.
Please listen to us and give us the opportunity to speak about this important issue.