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Nadler Defends Victims of Rape, Reproductive Rights


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On Tuesday, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, defended the victims of rape and the reproductive rights of all women by speaking out against a Republican bill, H.R. 1797, which would ban abortion under certain circumstances.  Newly drafted language contained in the bill would provide some exceptions in the case of rape, but only if the rape were actually reported to the police.

In response to this provision, Congressman Nadler said, “So, the sponsors are telling us not only that women are too immoral and too stupid to make this very personal decision but they are too dishonest to be believed, when they say they were raped,” said Congressman Nadler.  He continued, “This bill would use the trauma of the assault to erect another unnecessary and cruel barrier to a raped woman.  Congress should not side with her abuser to force her to carry that abuser’s child to term.  This is an outrage.”

Below are Rep. Nadler’s remarks, as prepared for delivery on the House floor.

“We’re back again considering cruel and unconstitutional legislation that would curtail women’s reproductive rights.

“It contains a nearly total ban on abortions prior to viability, which the Supreme Court says violates women’s rights under the Constitution, and – perhaps most cruelly — it fails even to provide any exception to protect a woman’s health.  The exception for a woman’s life is so narrowly written, and so convoluted, that even a physician wanting to comply with the law in good faith would have trouble determining when the woman is sufficiently in extremis that her condition qualifies as a “life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, but not including psychological or emotional conditions,” which the sponsor tells us excludes the risk of suicide.

“Just recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down a nearly identical Arizona statute, saying ‘[s]ince Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case law concerning the constitutional protection accorded women with respect to the decision whether to undergo an abortion has been unalterably clear regarding one basic point . . . a woman has a constitutional right to choose to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus is viable.  A prohibition on the exercise of that right is per se unconstitutional.’

“Recently added language is supposed to take the heat off the recent uproar over the absence of a rape and incest exception.  This language, however, is outrageously written.

“It would provide an exception for rape or incest only if the victim first reported it to the authorities. In the best of all possible worlds, every assault would be reported, and every rapist prosecuted.

“But we all know that there are many reasons why rapes and incest often don’t get reported; the toll our criminal justice system takes on rape victims:  the humiliation, the harassment, the psychological trauma, having to face sometimes heartless cross-examination, having to appear in the press or, having to face death threats from friends and neighbors of the perpetrators. “Why force women to be victimized twice?  The only reason we have been given is that women lie.

“So, the sponsors are telling us not only that women are too immoral and too stupid to make this very personal decision but they are too dishonest to be believed, when they say they were raped.

“This bill would use the trauma of the assault to erect another unnecessary and cruel barrier to a raped woman.  Congress should not side with her abuser to force her to carry that abuser’s child to term.

“The incest exception applies only if the victim was a minor when the incest occurred.  Why?  Do my colleagues believe that this was nice consensual sex?  That if a young woman abused by her father from age 8, and he gets her pregnant at age 18, it doesn’t count?  Or that she asked for it and deserves it?

“These restrictions are new.  The rape and incest exceptions in previous legislation passed by this House have no conditions or restrictions.

“The most recently enacted Labor HHS appropriations bill says ‘The limitations established in the preceding section shall not apply to abortion if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.’

“Now, some members want to redefine rape and incest to satisfy an extremist base that wants to outlaw all abortions – even for victims of rape and incest.

“I hope that we can agree that no woman should ever be forced to carry her abuser’s child.

“I urge my colleagues to reject this cruel and unconstitutional legislation.

“Thank you.”

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