Cross-posted with permission from the Abortion Gang blog.
Coverage of Representative Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments have ignited a media storm. It’s clear that Akin’s remarks are more than just misinformation about reproductive health, and that they could have devastating and divisive policy implications for abortion rights and access. Akin’s comments have also sparked a conversation about abortion exceptions, “legitimate” reasons to have an abortion, or if we should even be talking about those reasons.
What do we know about abortion exceptions? We know that they make it harder for anyone to get an abortion, including each person who falls under exceptions such as rape, incest, or threat to the person’s life. Many of us in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements have written about and fought against the concept of “legitimate” or “acceptable” reasons to have an abortion. Of course we agree that no one should differentiate between an individual’s circumstances surrounding an abortion decision. But that doesn’t mean that we, and by extension, our movement, don’t also play into labelling some abortions as more necessary, important, or worthy of funding than others.
This happens most noticeably at the policy level. We fight for legislation that grants military insurance coverage for abortion in cases of rape instead of fighting for military insurance to cover abortion regardless of if it was an instance of rape or not. When state legislators try to ban later abortions, we trot out stories of people who’ve needed later abortions for fetal anomalies, not those who need later abortions for less sympathetic reasons. And, more recently, the progressive media is aghast that the GOP platform includes an anti-abortion amendment that doesn’t give an exception for rape, when really, shouldn’t we be up in arms that there is an anti-abortion amendment, period?