The poor have always had to struggle throughout the generations. Often marginalized, the poor are whittled-down to a statistic. The poor represent different things to different people. Poor women, in particular, often find themselves with limited incomes, single parent responsibilities, low employment levels, and a need to receive aid from state and county welfare programs. This general aid includes government provided medical care. However, with the passage of recent healthcare policies, the types of therapies and treatments offered to and made available to poor women is changing. Women’s health issues, concerns, and conditions often find themselves open to public, political, and institutional debates and criticism. There is one element of women’s health that evokes greater debate than any other issue, abortion, Abortion, the terminating of pregnancy through medial means, has and will likely remain controversial for some time to come. Despite that controversy and opposing opinions there are some situations where the termination of a pregnancy to be considered “understandable” in many cases. Instances when a woman has been raped and pregnancy results are sometimes deemed a situation where an abortion is acceptable. Unfortunately, pregnancy by rape is not easy to prove. If a poor woman who relies on the welfare system for their healthcare, may have their request for a rape-related abortion declined. However women of greater economic means can simply pay for the same procedure without being so dependent on the perception of the medical community or society. There are many stereotypes and antiquated perspectives that have become modern myths concerning women and rape; all of which are detrimental.
- Women cannot get pregnant from rape
- Women lie about rape in order to cover a consensual sex act.
- Rape is cannot exist between couples.
Each of these beliefs has a great deal of public following. Pro-Life advocates, for example, do not consider abortion a viable solution under any circumstances, including rape. Regardless, these perspectives are flawed, are no longer supported by science, and are based on conjecture and personal opinion. Additionally, no one is considering the psychological and emotional damage that can be caused to these women. The fact they were not believed, would be forced to carry her rapist’s baby, and then give birth to that child, could have severe and serious side effects. There are few laws on the books and policies bing condiered to address many of the legal aspects of rape, pregancny, and abortion. For poor women the reality is far more limited and not designed to benefit their sitation (Prewitt 828).
These aforementioned rationalizations of rape have existed throughout time and have sociologically speaking, favored the needs of men more so than women. The idea that pregnancy cannot occur from a rape encounter is little more than an “old wives tale.” Any time there is sexual penetration and ejaculation, and then it can potentially result in conception. Now, there are no doubt instances of rape where pregnancies do not occur, of course, but that is simply biological reality. What is incredibly important to note, is that women who have claimed their pregnancy was due to a rape report much higher likelihood to have had an abortion within their teen or adult life (McFarlane 127-128).This modern myth has existed for decades, if not centuries, related to the ancient concept that women are “responsible” and “accountable” for the children they conceive. For example, men often blamed women in the past for being unable to produce a son. Of course, biology does not work like that. The context of the sex act does not have influence over the reproductive outcomes of the act. Of the number of rape-related pregnancies the number of women who seek an abortion stretches from 30% to 50% (Prewitt 827-828). In fact, modern studies have shown that the likelihood of women becoming pregnant from a rape event is no more or less than a consensual one. Given those parameters, on a yearly basis, it is plausible to conclude that anywhere from, nearly, 2,000 to, nearly, 3,000 instances of rape resulting in pregnancy (Clancy 1).
There are many who argue that because abortions are considered “more” acceptable if it is being considered as a solution to the unwanted pregnancy as the result of rape; then, for this reason, these critics believe that many women will claim a rape to cover for an irresponsible sexual encounter that was entirely consensual. There are so many aspects of this perspective that have been based on opinions and stereotyping. To assume that all women are inevitably going to lie to get abortions makes an ethical and moral judgment that is stereotyping women as innately dishonest as a gender (Lonsway and Fitsgerald 133). More so, women who are poor are somehow more dishonest than women who are not. Again, financially stable women do not have to answer to government funded medical care therefore how the pregnancy occurred is not questioned. Poor women, however, are more likely to be dishonest, and are more inclined to irresponsible sexual activity that could lead to unwanted pregnancy? That does not make sense. This bias is not logical and does not reflect a balanced perspective.
It is believed that rape is a crime that can only exist between acquaintances, like date rape, or from a random attack by a stranger. However, a large percentage of rape occurs within couples, including marriages. Because sex is a “given” between couples, especially married couples, it is seen, by many, to be impossible for a rape to exist. Properly termed as Intimate Partner Abuse (IPA), it is more likely to occur among poor women, the acts more likely to go unreported, and, when pregnancies occur, they are less likely, not more likely, to seek an abortion (McFarlane 130). In some ways, marriage is seen as a legalization of potential rape. Is that the precedent that a modern society really wants to perpetuate? However, the most significant repercussions extend from the idea that the law actually supports that perspective. Married partners accused of rape are seldom charged or jailed for the crime. This ideology, like many that still exist today, is based on antiquated beliefs that women are obligated to provide sex as part of the marriage contract. The definition of rape is very simple, forced penetration without consent (McFarlane 127). That can happen within a relationship and a marriage as surely as it can on the streets in dark allies.
All of these combined stereotypes and modern myths can have serious emotional and mental side-effects on women who are economically deprived, victims of rape, and find themselves facing an unwanted pregnancy as a result. Firstly is the physical and emotional trauma of the rape, which can leave a women suffering from PTSD, Anti-abortion activist may argue that having an abortion can contribute to poor mental health in women, yet there is yet to be conclusive evidence to verify if that is in fact statistically true (Cohen 16). What can be verified is when you combine the trauma of rape with the likelihood of not being taken seriously by the legal system, of having their right to abortion questioned, and the possibility of being forced to carry and birth the baby of their attackers can be overwhelming (McFarlane 130). It is no wonder so many poor women do not report the attacks. However, many Americans point out that the whole issue is unconstitutional and is not being properly addressed by government policies. Women have been deemed, via cases like Roe vs. Wade, to have a constitutional right to their bodies and pregnancy (Tribe 338). In cases of rape that right in even more strongly enforced. Men who commit rape are not being held accountable, but women who are impregnated are. Experts call for legislature that would make rape and its consequences, including unwanted pregnancy a form of bodily injury (Hoyson 566). There are so many ethical concerns with the moral criticisms being placed upon poor, pregnant women, who have been victims of rape. For many, it represents a serious need for reform.
The Constitution upholds that innate human rights of an American, but struggle with the place of that protection in cases of abortion (Tribe 335-336). However when it comes to abortions debates, the sides cannot even agree on when life starts, and therefore who needs the most protection, the mothers or the unborn? For this reason the debates will continue. So the ultimate verdict on abortion is yet to be seen. In the meantime, however, there needs to be a balance and equality in how the issue is addressed and the abandoning of out-dated and ethically questionable stereotypes and myths (Browne and Biksacky 211). No longer should a poor woman have less options and means offered to her than a wealthier person who can pay freely for the same service with less judgment. More importantly, the false myths concerning rape and pregnancy can no longer be allowed to continue. Reeducation of the public and the legal system is necessary. Rape is a serious crime and violation of the most basic of human rights. It is not the victims fault, responsibility, and they are not accountable for the results of actions of their rapist. This should include pregnancy, at least, legally speaking. Unfortunately, there is a darker side to the applying the Constitution to cases of rape. In recent case a young women was raped. She became pregnant but optioned to keep the child, but pursued criminal action against her attacker. In response the attacker pursued custody rights over the child. Once she dropped the charges he no longer had interest in the child (Spivak 1). The laws concerning rape and pregnancy should not benefit the rapists over the victims and certainly should not grant a rapist full parental rights and ability to seek custody. Necessary reforms should be freed of the longstanding bias that has existed and enforce an approach that favors the vicitims, both mothers and their children (Prewitt 827).
Rape is a violent and serious crime, which more often than not, is more common among women, than men. It is clear there is a serious inequalities that are befalling women who are economically disadvantaged and who are seeking abortions to remedy a pregnancy caused by rape. There has not been enough ethical consideration has been considered regarding the effects of modern rape myths can have upon victims, how a rape pregnancy can affect the mother, as well as, the child if they are born to a mother who sees them as a reminder of a negative event. There is also a serious need for reforms in how society views rape within romantic and marital relationships. Granted, the argument for ethical treatment of current victims of rapes and subsequent pregnancy, it does not cover the ethics of abortion as a whole, which is entirely different issue. At this time, the focus must be one how to improve what exists today for all Americans, regardless of their class, economic status, or marital relationship. However, this cannot occur until the problems are acknowledged and addressed; but what is most clear is the severity of the need.
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McFarlane, Judith. "Pregnancy Following Partner Rape: What We Know and What We Need To Know." Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 8. (2007): 127. Print.
Prewitt, Shauna R. “Giving Birth to a “Rapist’s Child”: A Discussionand Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Become Mothers Through Rape.” Georgetown Law Review. 98. 827-862. Print
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