Caught Attacking Rape Victims, Rep. Cathrynn Brown Claims She Only Meant to Punish Those Who Help Rape Victims

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 14:30 EDT
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I reported two days ago on a New Mexico state legislator named Cathrynn Brown who introduced a bill banning abortion for rape victims that required jail time for rape victims who dare refuse to continue a pregnancy forced upon them. She got a lot of attention for this, and so she’s now doing what Republicans do when caught being too openly hostile towards victims of gender-based violence, and backtracking. Now she claims she didn’t mean for women seeking to end rape-induced pregnancies to see jail time for “destroying evidence” (yeah right), and she’s rewriting the bill to clarify that you’ll only do time if you help a rape victim end a pregnancy. Which means that providers will be threatened with jail.

But just to be clear: She’s specifically trying to ban abortion for rape victims. She wants New Mexico to be a state where any man can decide at any point in time to forcibly impregnate a woman, and that woman is barred legally from doing anything about it.

What’s becoming clear is that as the Republican Party moves to the right, the official bipartisan stance against violence against women is being abandoned. There’s always been an interesting tension between the right wing base and the Republican Party on this. The base is, not to put too fine a point on it, more sympathetic to perpetuators of much violence against women than victims of it. For instance, right wing media has basically always opposed the Violence Against Women Act. The objections have centered around the bullshit claim that victims are liars, though in many cases, the argument has been that the government’s approach to domestic violence is to try encourage victims of batterers to stay with their abusers. This is a fine line for conservatives to walk, because almost never do they want to say that all victims of rape or domestic violence are to blame.

But still, recent events make clear that the hardline sexist view of rape and domestic violence is gaining credence on the right. You see it with “legitimate rape” and all the various attempts by House Republicans to define rape only as “forcible” rape. That would have the effect of defining statutory rape, rape of an incapacitated person, and possibly even rape that was achieved through threats as non-rape.

The ugly reality is, as anyone who discusses gender online can tell you, that the hardline conservative base is blatantly misogynist and happy to do things like blame women for men hitting them, or claim that men are entitled to rape women who agree to unchaperoned dates with them. Nowadays the conservative base is tired of pretending to be more moderate than they are in order to help Republicans get elected. They’re expanding the battle of reproductive rights to attack contraception. They’re heckling people who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence. Feigned “compassionate conservatism” has instead turned into ugly attacks on the “47%” and claiming that anyone who votes for a Democrat is lazy and refuses to work. It’s not surprising, therefore, that deeply ugly attitudes about rape and domestic violence are no longer contained in spittle-flecked blog comments or uttered only behind closed doors, but are now coming out of the mouths of politicians and being turned into policy. Make no mistake; looking to pass laws banning rape victims specifically from aborting is part of this bigger picture.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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