Missouri Rejects Rape Exceptions, Senator Says Forced Birth Can Be ‘the Greatest Healing Agent’

Missouri was the first state in the nation to ban abortion and seemingly remains determined to be as cruel as possible.

Missouri Rejects Rape Exceptions, Senator Says Forced Birth Can Be ‘the Greatest Healing Agent’
Missouri state Sen. Rick Brattin said forced pregnancy and birth could be “the greatest healing agent” for rape victims in his arguments against adding a rape exception to the state’s abortion ban. Photo:Rick Brattin/Facebook

In 2022, Missouri was the first state to ban abortion when Roe v. Wade was overturned, and anti-abortion lawmakers in the state are continuing their streak of cruelty. On Wednesday, across party lines, Republicans rejected an amendment that would have added rape and incest exceptions to the state’s total ban. Democratic state Sen. Tracy McCreery proposed the amendment by pleading with her colleagues to “show an ounce of compassion” for victims. As it currently exists, McCreery said the ban tells victims, “We’re going to force you to give birth, even if that pregnancy resulted from forcible rape by a family member, a date, an ex-husband or a stranger.”

As if voting to reject McCreery’s amendment weren’t insulting enough to victims, state Sen. Rick Brattin (R) explained his vote by arguing that being forced to carry their rapist’s baby could be “healing” for victims. “If you want to go after the rapist, let’s give him the death penalty. Absolutely, let’s do it,” Brattin said. “But not the innocent person caught in-between that, by God’s grace, may even be the greatest healing agent you need in which to recover from such an atrocity.” Seemingly trying to make his comments as horrific as possible, Brattin also managed to compare abortion to slavery.

Another Republican, state Sen. Sandy Crawford, argued against rape exceptions because “God doesn’t make mistakes”: “Even in some of these very horrific cases, there was a reason that God allowed there to be a child out of this situation,” Crawford elaborated. Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Bill Eigel—who’s running for governor—inexplicably claimed McCreery’s proposed amendment would “bring back the institution of abortion so that kids can get abortions in the state of Missouri,” stating, “A one-year-old could get an abortion under this.” To this, a Democratic senator returned, “I don’t know that a one-year-old could get pregnant, Senator.” I really don’t know what to say to any of this, except that Republican lawmakers clearly have no good arguments in support of their heinous laws and the violence they’re inflicting on survivors and pregnant people—and that becomes clearer every day when they start inexplicably invoking pregnant one-year-olds.

Missouri legislators’ rejection of a rape exception comes after, last month, new research estimates that in states that have banned abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe in June 2022, there have been an estimated 64,565 rape-induced pregnancies. Of these 64,565 pregnancies, 91% were in states with bans that lacked rape exceptions.

Missouri Republicans’ arguments against a rape exception are the latest contribution to anti-abortion politicians’ hall-of-shame hits on the topic of rape and abortion. Over a decade ago, failed Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin gave us “legitimate rape” (his claim that there’s no need for rape exceptions because “legitimate rape” won’t result in pregnancy). And ever since—certainly, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe—it feels like every other month there’s a new outlandish, wildly offensive comment from anti-abortion officials about abortion and rape. Shortly after Roe fell, a Utah Republican said she “[trusts] women enough to control when they allow a man to ejaculate inside of them and to control that intake of semen,” therefore negating the need for abortion for rape victims.

Also in 2022, a Michigan Republican candidate said he told his daughters “If rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it.” A Republican state lawmaker in Ohio called pregnancy from rape “an opportunity.” Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) acknowledged the abortion ban in his state could force child rape survivors to carry their rapist’s babies, but shrugged off the idea of personally doing anything about it: “I would prefer a different outcome than that, but that’s not the debate today in Arkansas. It might be in the future, but for now, the law triggered with only one exception … in the case of the life of the mother,” he said in June 2022. In other cases, Republican lawmakers have refused to even address rape victims speaking out against their laws altogether.

McCreery introduced the proposed rape exception as an amendment to a Republican-sponsored bill that would continue Missouri’s ban on taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. Democratic lawmakers in other states have also run into problems trying to add exceptions—including rape exceptions—to their state abortion bans, and rape victims and advocates have argued that the processes to access rape exceptions are too cumbersome for victims. “It may not be today or tomorrow, but down the line, this could happen to someone you love,” Hadley Duvall, a rape survivor who’s helping to lead an effort to add a rape exception to Kentucky’s ban, told Jezebel in January about the prevalence of sexual violence. “And if you can look them in the eye and tell them ‘You don’t deserve this medical procedure, even though your innocence was taken from you, your health is in danger’—I don’t know how they live with themselves.”

Even as Democratic lawmakers in states that have banned abortion increasingly focus on trying to add what narrow exceptions they can, it’s important to remember that abortion should be available to anyone who seeks it for any reason, without forcing them to prove anything or endure any sexual or medical trauma. Missouri advocates are currently campaigning to put an abortion rights measure on the ballot this November. (One proposed measure would guarantee a right to abortion up to 12 weeks—which, FWIW, is still an abortion ban—while another measure, backed by Planned Parenthood, would protect a right to abortion until the point of viability.) Repealing abortion bans altogether, instead of forcing rape victims—or anyone—to navigate cumbersome and traumatic barriers to health care, should be the ultimate goal here.

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