While the public was cheering some conservatives for doing the bare minimum this week—dunking on Nazis and white supremacists and criticizing a president who refuses to do the same—other conservatives were hard at work at something a little less Sorkin-esque.
In Georgia last week, a Congressman mused off the cuff about punishing rape victims in sanctuary cities. And in Texas, a governor signed a law effectively barring rape victims from using their employer-provided insurance to cover abortion.
The Georgia incident, first reported last week by Jezebel’s Ellie Shechet, involved Republican Rep. Buddy “Snatch A Knot In Their Ass” Carter. During a town hall with constituents, a woman asked Carter what he’d do to help expedite the processing of the state’s backlog of 10,000-plus rape kits. Carter said he’d try to direct federal grant money to Georgia to fix the problem, and then added, laughing, “Unless they’re a sanctuary city.”
The constituent asked if he was serious, and Carter doubled down twice, effectively threatening rape victims over immigration enforcement. If a city was not going to comply with federal immigration requirements, then he would consider withholding funding for totally unrelated grants designed to clear the rape kit backlog. Rape kit backlogs, in addition to denying justice to victims of sexual assault, give authorities evidence to apprehend rapists, who often reoffend. This isn’t rocket science.
A meeting attendee asked Carter if punishing rape victims over immigration served his constituents. “It does serve my constituents, because if you’re a sanctuary city, that means you are refusing to enforce our immigration laws here in the United States, and if you’re doing that then I don’t want to be sending you any federal grants to go to your city,” Carter replied. Jezebel posted video of the event.
That’s what the kids would call a “self-own.”
“The GOP has been pushing an agenda that actively hurts women for decades,” says Alex de Luca of the pro-choice PAC EMILY’s List. “That one of their members would suggesting holding rape survivors and their pursuit of justice hostage until their cities collaborate with the Trump administration’s backwards, dangerous immigration policy is just more of the same. When Republicans are in charge, women lose.”
While one might think that Carter’s dumb comments have little chance of getting traction—because one of the few things that plays worse than refusing to condemn Nazis is bullying rape victims—state officials in Texas are doing just that.
Yesterday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that bars private insurance from including abortion coverage. That means that women using their own money to participate in employer-subsidized insurance plans would be required to buy a special rider if they think they might at some time experience an unplanned pregnancy.
The Texas law does not contain an exception for rape or incest. That means that women who are raped and become pregnant and don’t wish to carry their rapist’s baby to term will have to pay for their own abortions out-of-pocket unless they predicted, grimly, that they may at one point become impregnated by a sexual assault. Opponents of the Texas law are calling it “rape insurance.” It’s a jarring term, but it’s not inaccurate.
As it stands, publicly funded insurance cannot cover abortion except in extreme circumstances. And private insurance only covers “medically necessary” abortions. The AP points out that one could view the law as “symbolic.” But the “medically necessary” label gives doctors some wiggle room in declaring that elective abortions belong in that category.
And the procedure is hardly affordable. The average cost of abortion, without insurance, can range from $500 to over $10,000, depending on how advanced the pregnancy is, what procedure is used, and other factors. The vast majority of abortions occur during the first trimester, and the longer a woman waits, the more expensive it gets.
Abortion rates in the U.S. are at historic lows. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, 14.6 abortions occurred per 1,000 women of childbearing age. When Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure in 1973, the rate was 16.3. At its height in the early 1980s, the rate was 29.3, according to Guttmacher.
An uncomplicated vaginal birth in a hospital in the U.S. costs upwards of $10,000.
Emily Cain, executive director of EMILY’s List, describes the move as “devastatingly cruel.” “Texas women,” she added, “will not forget this betrayal.”
Gov. Abbott has been a vocal proponent of repealing Obamacare, so it’s not clear how women who may want to become or not become mothers will be able to afford either option.
As of Wednesday morning, there was no word yet on whether pro-choice groups plan on mounting a legal challenge to the Texas law.