Missouri State Rep. Rick Brattin received national notoriety this week when he invoked the ghost of former Rep. Todd Akin's political career in the form of "legitimate rape" in an interview with Mother Jones. As you can probably guess, Brattin is vehemently anti-abortion, to the point that he believes women should receive permission from their husbands, boyfriends or sexual partners before undergoing an abortion — the basis of his newly proposed bill in the Missouri House of Representatives. Little did we know that Brattin's "legitimate rape" line would be the least offensive comment he would make this week.
Brattin's bill, HB 131, proposes a rather draconian and potentially abusive measure: Women must receive "written, notarized consent to the abortion" from the father before receiving an abortion. The bill goes so far as forcing a woman to sign an affidavit — a copy of which will remain in her medical records — if the father is deceased at the time of procedure. Yes, even a deceased husband would have more power than the woman.
Brattin appeared on local news outlet 41 Action News on Thursday to clear his name and ensure everybody that he doesn't believe rape victims need to "prove" their sexual assaults — though women would still need to report their rapes in order to receive an abortion under his bill. Women who were subjugated to sexual abuse but never reported it would still need to gain the signature of their abuser before undergoing the procedure. Brattin's bill also makes no concessions to victims of domestic violence or emotional abuse.
But it gets better: When asked by local news if he understands why women are offended up the bill, Brattin said women simply aren't afford bodily rights when they're pregnant:
Well it's not a woman's body with an abortion. It's a child's body. It's a child's life that's taken. The woman's life is not altered.
Brattin also attacked those pesky feminists and women's rights advocates in the interview, saying they took away rights from men when it comes to, uh, pregnant women's bodies and their decision to either terminate a pregnancy or carry a pregnancy to term:
It took two to come together and create a child, and right now the way it is the woman gets the full say and the father gets no say, and I think that that needs to change. With the women's movement for equal rights, well it's swung so far we have now taken away the man's right and the say in their child's life.
There you have it, folks: the right to one's own body is such an extreme notion that we now have to legislate the control of one's body. What Brattin can't — or doesn't — answer is what would happen when a woman wants an abortion, but her husband, boyfriend or partner won't give his permission. Is forcing someone to stay pregnant and have a child against their will now a right afforded to men? Conversely, do men now have the right to persuade a woman to have an abortion against her will?
Although Brattin believes his bill is well-intentioned, the results may certainly fall under the territory of reproductive coercion, setting a dangerous precedent that will further erode the rights of pregnant women. According to Brattin, a woman automatically cedes her autonomy — to her sexual partner and a fetus — at the moment of conception.
But Brattin may not be as successful with his proposed legislation. The Supreme Court has already struck down a similar measure 20 years ago in the landmark reproductive rights case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Then, the Supreme Court ruled a state's spousal notice requirement prior to an abortion was unconstitutional, stating that it was a form of coercion that would grant husbands' full control over their wives. It would also place a clear undue burden on women seeking abortion.
The high court wrote in 1994:
The spousal notification requirement is thus likely to prevent a significant number of women from obtaining an abortion. It does not merely make abortions a little more difficult or expensive to obtain; for many women, it will impose [505 U.S. 833, 894] a substantial obstacle. We must not blind ourselves to the fact that the significant number of women who fear for their safety and the safety of their children are likely to be deterred from procuring an abortion as surely as if the Commonwealth had outlawed abortion in all cases.
Maybe someone should send this memo to Rep. Rick Brattin.