'Consensual rape' and 're-implantation': the times lawmakers 'misspoke' on abortion

On Friday Missouri became the latest state to enact extreme abortion restrictions, passing a bill that bans abortion after eight weeks. The ban provides no exceptions for rape or incest which, according to Republican congressman Barry Hovis, is fine because most rape is “consensual” anyway.

Hovis told the Missouri House that most of the rapes he’d encountered in his previous role in law enforcement were “date rapes or consensual rapes”. While Hovis noted that these were “all terrible” he also stressed they were very tricky “he-said-she-said” situations. In any case, the lawmaker said, his real point was that, if someone was sexually assaulted they could simply take the morning after pill. Although, to be clear, he wouldn’t be very happy about that either.

After the bill was safely passed, the lawmaker backtracked, explaining he “misspoke”. The Republican is far from the only politician to ‘misspeak’ while arguing for abortion restrictions. Legislators saying ludicrous things while curtailing reproductive rights seems to be a feature of the American political process.

Here is a roundup of some of the more recent examples.

Women should end their pregnancy before they know they are pregnant

Senator Clyde Chambliss was one of the chief architects of the Alabama abortion ban that was passed this week, but don’t take that to mean he knows anything about the subject. “I’m not trained medically so I don’t know the proper medical terminology and timelines,” Chambliss said in his opening statement. “But from what I’ve read, what I’ve been told, there’s some period of time before you can know a woman is pregnant.” He then went on to say that this meant that a woman has a chance to end her pregnancy before she knows she is pregnant. He repeated this nonsense several times.

An egg is only considered human life if it is in a woman

According to the anti-abortion brigade, life begins at conception. It turns out, however, that there are some exceptions. During the debate about the Alabama bill Chambliss was asked why it wouldn’t apply to eggs fertilized in IVF. Chambliss replied, “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.” Could he make it any more clear that these laws aren’t actually about protecting life, they’re about controlling women?

Miscarriages should probably be investigated as murder

We haven’t finished with Chambliss. Under the Alabama law “attempted abortions” would be punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Chambliss was asked to define what an “attempted abortion” was, and didn’t have a clear answer. Nor could he say how doctors would be able to tell the difference between a miscarriage and an attempted abortion, simply stating that “the burden of proof would be on the prosecution”. Does that mean miscarriages would be investigated by the police? Because that’s what it sounds like.

Doctors should perform scientifically impossible procedures

Ohio Republican John Becker recently introduced a bill banning insurance coverage of abortions with limited exceptions. One of these exceptions being the “re-implantation” of an ectopic pregnancy into the uterus. As doctors were quick to point out, the technology to do this simply doesn’t exist.

Abortion should be painful

It’s not just male lawmakers waging war against women. Earlier this month Kim LaSata, a Michigan state legislator, said abortion should be painful, and women carrying unviable fetuses should be forced to deliver them. “Of course it should be hard, and the procedure should be painful, and you should allow God to take over, and you should deliver that baby, and you should handle the situation,” LaSata said.

Women should swallow tiny cameras for gynecological exams

In 2015 Idaho’s Republican-controlled state house debated a bill that would ban doctors from offering medication abortion services via telemedicine. Republican state representative Vito Barbieri asked a doctor testifying in opposition to the bill if women were able to swallow small cameras for remote gynecological exams. The doctor replied no, because when you swallow something it does not end up in your vagina. “Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri replied.


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