(TEXAS) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is under fire for comments he made about rape and the state’s new near-total abortion ban that critics say defied realities of both rape and reproduction.
The Texas law bans abortions after embryonic cardiac activity can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and has no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
During a public appearance Tuesday to sign a bill restricting voting access, Abbott pushed back on a question from WFAA’s Alex Rozier about why a rape victim would have to carry a pregnancy to term.
“It doesn’t require that at all,” Abbott said, “because, obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”
Gestation is measured from a person’s last menstrual period, and ovulation — when a person can become pregnant — occurs about two weeks after that. So the law, in reality, gives a person about four weeks after conception — or two weeks after a missed period — to confirm a pregnancy and book an appointment for an abortion within that tight timeframe.
People often don’t realize they are pregnant until after the six-week mark, and booking an abortion appointment within a tight timeframe has been made increasingly difficult due to the state’s previous restrictions that caused clinics to close, causing patients to wait longer into a pregnancy for appointments.
Moreover, some victims of rape or incest are young and may not yet have a full understanding of or familiarity with their menstrual cycles to be able to so quickly identify a pregnancy. Texas law also requires minors have parental consent to obtain an abortion, which may be difficult to come by in cases of incest. Texas minors can get judicial approval to get an abortion without parental consent, but it may not be realistically feasible for a teen to confirm a pregnancy, go through the court system for a judge’s sign-off, and book an abortion appointment within two weeks of a missed period after being raped.
In some instances of domestic violence, victims face other barriers to getting an abortion within six weeks’ gestation. Reproductive coercion can be part of abuse, per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Abbott continued: “Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”
Contrary to Abbott’s comments about “getting them off the streets,” sexual violence is “usually” committed by “someone the victim knows, such as a friend, current or former intimate partner, coworker, neighbor, or family member,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, Abbott claimed, “So, goal No. 1 in the state of Texas is to eliminate rape, so that no woman — no person — will be a victim of rape.”
To date, rape prevention legislation has not been a priority on any of the special session call sheets issued by the governor, including a third one Abbott announced later Tuesday. Despite advances in clearing a rape kit backlog, it remains unclear how Abbott plans to stop rape from happening in the state of Texas.
Abbott’s comments are garnering backlash. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called his comments “disgusting” during an appearance on “Anderson Cooper 360” and said they demonstrate the “rape culture” and “misogyny” that she says contributed to the passage of the abortion ban.
“We know none of this is about life — none of this is about supporting life,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “What this is about is controlling women’s bodies and controlling people who are not cisgender men.”
ABC News’ Alisa Wiersema contributed to this report.
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