Virginia: The State as Rapist

The FBI defines rape as:

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

The rapist’s intent doesn’t matter, the prior relationship doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is consent.  Without consent, penetration is rape.  And nobody should be raped.  Ever.  Clear?

The state of Virginia just passed a law.  You’ve probably heard of it.  It requires every woman in Virginia who seeks an abortion to have an ultrasound taken of the fetus, and to be “offered the opportunity” to view that ultrasound.  Her decision as to whether to view it or not must be recorded in her medical file.  In case you didn’t look at it via the link, and in case you did, because it’s ugly and worth looking at, here it is:

Abortion; informed consent.  Requires that, as a component of informed consent to an abortion, to determine gestation age, every pregnant female shall undergo ultrasound imaging and be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound image of her fetus prior to the abortion. The medical professional performing the ultrasound must obtain written certification from the woman that the opportunity was offered and whether the woman availed herself of the opportunity to see the ultrasound image or hear the fetal heartbeat. A copy of the ultrasound and the written certification shall be maintained in the woman’s medical records at the facility where the abortion is to be performed.

OK, and so how is that rape?  Well…it’s kind of a matter of resolution.  Many if not most abortions are performed within twelve weeks of impregnation.  And there’s a problem.  You can’t image a fetus at that early stage with external sensors.  You need to use one of these:

transvaginal probeAnd in case you’re wondering, it gets used exactly the way you think it gets used.

Now, the way the Virginia law is written?  It automatically falls within the FBI’s definition of rape, because the ultrasound is mandatory, not subject to the patient’s consent.  And that means, in turn, that nearly every woman who is less than 12 weeks pregnant when she seeks an abortion in Virginia must be penetrated, whether she gives her consent or not.  It is true that under Virginia law, which uses an older formula that restricts rape to “sexual intercourse,” the new law does not constitute mandatory rape.  That’s some comfort, I suppose.

So, if it so happens that if you are in Virginia, and you are raped, and you seek an abortion as soon as you realize that you became pregnant as a result, you will be, as Dahlia Lithwick points out, raped again.  And if you haven’t been raped, but need to terminate your pregnancy for some other reason?  Well, how about a nice rape now?  After all, abortion is merely a lifestyle choice and you should’ve just used an aspirin for contraception, anyway.

When I was high school and college (mid-to-late ’70s), I had never heard the term “date rape.”   Up to that point, the very notion of date rape was alien—your partner might not have been completely willing, completely happy with what you did, but it wasn’t rape.  Not really.  It was just love.  Right?

Wrong.

It took some education to get the idea through all of our thick heads that rape could occur within what appeared to be an otherwise reasonably healthy relationship.  When partner A put pressure on partner B to do something they didn’t want to do.  Something to which they did not consent.  But we eventually began to understand that, and so people now use the term “date rape.”  And there’s power in that term because it stigmatizes the behavior.

I want to believe that Virginia does not bear malice toward women.  But then, when I was in high school and college, I didn’t (and for the most part, don’t) believe that males bore malice toward women.  What we were was ignorant.  But ignorance does not excuse a crime that has no element of intent.  Rape—“penetration, no matter how slight . . . without the consent of the victim” is rape.  Rape is a crime.  And Virginia, this is the 21st Century.  Even if ignorance served as an excuse, there is no excuse for ignorance at this late date.

The State of Virginia’s attempt to rape some of its citizens is inexcusable.

It is nothing more or less than State Rape.

 

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2 Responses to Virginia: The State as Rapist

  1. The post has plenty of gravitas in dealing with what is a very weighty issue. However, I feel like you missed a golden opportunity to reference “yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

    Hmmm. Maybe something like “Yes, Virginia, a woman has to give consent.”

  2. I considered that–briefly–but felt that the pun would be too much for the issue. Virginia is a very strange state… You can take it from there.

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