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Mo. Lawmaker Says Abortion Consent Bill Would Not Apply in 'Legitimate Rape' Cases

December 19, 2014 — A Missouri state lawmaker recently said his bill (HB 131) requiring a woman seeking an abortion to get permission from the man involved in the pregnancy would not apply in cases of "legitimate rape," a phrase that drew widespread criticism when used by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) two years ago, National Journal reports (Novack, National Journal, 12/17).

Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin's (R) pre-filed bill would require all abortion patients in the state to obtain written, notarized consent from the man involved in the pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/15). The bill would not require a woman to obtain such consent if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest (Ballentine, AP/Kansas City Star, 12/18).

Mother Jones Interview

During an interview with Mother Jones about the measure, Brattin said, "Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it" to qualify for the bill's exemption, adding, "So you couldn't just go and say, 'Oh yeah, I was raped,' and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape."

Brattin said he was inspired to propose the consent requirement after he recently obtained a vasectomy and needed to have a signed form saying that his wife agreed to the procedure. According to Brattin, the state of Missouri requires such a form.

In fact, there is no such law in the state, according to a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, which operates clinics that offer the procedure. The spokesperson noted that some providers might require consent of a person's partner, although its clinics do not (Redden, Mother Jones, 12/17).

Comparisons to Former Rep. Akin

Brattin's comments are reminiscent of those made by Akin during his 2012 campaign, when he said "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Akin went on to lose his bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) (National Journal, 12/17).

However, Brattin said his comments differ from Akin's in that he was "saying if there was a legitimate rape, you're going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed." He said that the bill would require women "to take steps to show that [they] were raped," which he thinks they would "be able to prove" (Mother Jones, 12/17).

Meanwhile, reproductive rights supporters said Brattin's comments are indicative of Republicans' tendency to be insensitive when talking about abortion (National Journal, 12/17). McCaskill in a statement called the bill "offensive and absurd," adding, "This is just a back-door way to eliminate any rape exception, unless the survivor gets a permission slip from her rapist" (AP/Kansas City Star, 12/18).

Other Issues With Bill

Mother Jones also asked Brattin about potential conflicts between his bill and the Supreme Court's 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which struck down a requirement that a woman inform her husband before an abortion. Brattin claimed the ruling would not affect his measure, which he said is constitutional because Missouri has another law requiring men to pay child support during pregnancy.

Brattin also noted that the bill would not apply if a woman's life were in danger or if she obtained a signed affidavit stating that the man involved in the pregnancy had died.

Reproductive rights supporters have said the consent requirement is particularly troubling for women in abusive relationships. Asked whether he would consider an exception to the consent requirement for women who have been abused, Brattin said he had not "really thought about that aspect of it" but that such women could obtain protective orders after giving birth.

M'Evie Mead, the director of statewide organizing for Missouri's Planned Parenthood affiliate, said, "This bill is insulting and a danger to women in abusive relationships," adding, "That's very much our concern. But when it comes to abortion, Missouri legislators are always trying to outdo each other" (Mother Jones, 12/17).