“Legitimate rape” is rearing its ugly head again in Missouri, this time coming from Republican Rick Brattin. The congressman has filed a bill for the next general assembly that would require women to receive written consent from the father for a Missouri abortion.
The bill, which Brattin submitted on December 3, states, “No abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion.” This bill comes on top of several restrictions already in place for Missouri abortions, including a 72-hour waiting period.
The amendment does come with exceptions, such as a pregnancy caused by rape or incest. But only if it's "legitimate rape." No, not former representative Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) understanding of “legitimate rape” in which “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” For a rape to classify as “legitimate” in Brattin’s eyes, it would require a police report and women taking “steps to show that [they] were raped.”
As Brattin told Molly Redden at Mother Jones:
Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it... So you couldn’t go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.
The bill doesn’t provide specifics of the requirements to the exceptions, but Brattin’s statements demonstrate a misunderstanding, to say the least, of the reality of reporting rapes in the U.S. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, an average of 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. The low number of rape convictions, shame, invasive questions from police officers who may not believe them, and fear of public trials that might make them relive traumatic experiences, are all factors that often lead women to not report rapes.
To potentially require women to have their rapist’s permission for an abortion could lead to traumatic situations if permission isn't given. Such as the case of Shauna Prewitt, whose rapist sued her for custody rights of her daughter. Missouri has taken measures to prevent this from happening, but only if the rapist has pled guilty or is convicted of rape.
When Mother Jones asked Brittan about women who were in abusive relationships, he stated “I haven’t really thought about that” — you don't say — but noted that women can obtain protective custody after the child’s birth.
The bill’s other exception is if the father is deceased, in which case the women would have to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to the father's passing.
Brattin co-sponsored an earlier version of this bill in March with Representative Brandon Ellington (D-Mo.). If passed, the bill will be effective in Missouri on August 28, 2015.