Dear Representative Brown,
It takes real hard work and quite a bit of creativity to outdo the extraordinary comments and efforts of many of your peers in public office regarding rape. To name but a few, we start off with the “legitimate rape” comment by US Representative Todd Akin. Breathtaking. Then, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock stepped up and said rape was “something that God intended.” Nice one. Next was the decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court to overturn a rape conviction because the victim, who has severe cerebral palsy, cannot verbally communicate, has limited movement, and did not “bite, kick, scratch, screech, groan, or gesture” her disapproval, and therefore consented. Pretty damn impressive. You’d think that’d be hard to beat.
But your introduction of legislation (New Mexico HB 206) that would make women who have abortions after getting pregnant from rape bona fide criminals is taking it to a new level! Abortion as “tampering with evidence” and a third degree felony? Screwing somebody’s record for life? Nicely done. What a feather in your “I’m just going to throw any legislative crap out there and see if I can get away with it” cap!
Completely discounting how a woman’s post-sexual assault body is often an extremely difficult place to inhabit, as it’s the inescapable “scene of the crime,” and ignoring how that would be magnified a zillion times if one had to endure a pregnancy because of that assault (if one didn’t want to) is really keeping your eyes on the prize. We should all have such single mindedness. To hell with a sexual assault survivor’s healing and her fundamental need to regain control of her body. Your inference that getting pregnant doesn’t afford documentable evidence of a pregnancy unless a baby pops out nine months later is pure genius. A little wink to you, using an indirect approach to legally attach the concept of “criminal” to “abortion,” the real aim of the bill, no doubt. Hello, slippery slope! The fact that you’re a woman really is icing on the institutionalized patriarchy cake. Such misogynous internalization is usually borne of some deep-seated self-deprecation. Do you need a hug?
Well, you should give yourself a congratulatory one, as your efforts are exemplary. Take a moment to really savor what you’re trying to do: you are legislatively attacking women who’ve been horribly sexually assaulted (not to mention all women). A double whammy. Way to go!
But why, in the name of all twisted, shameless public office holders, would you stop there? You’re clearly inspired. Don’t stop at just criminalizing post-rape abortion. This theme could really be mined. Grab your “I Loathe Women’s Rights” shovel and dig in!
Here are some ideas for potential evidence-tampering felons:
Survivors Who Seek Trauma Therapy
The very understandable psychological trauma reactions one can have from a sexual assault is considered evidence in some court cases. Trying to heal one’s trauma reactions, then, clearly would be tampering with evidence. Criminalize the women who are in trauma therapy. Make them felons. Every last couch-sitting one of them.
Psychotherapists Who Provide Trauma Therapy
Stands to reason. Make all psychotherapists who work with the felonious trauma survivors and do their best to help survivors heal, as I do in my practice, accomplices to their evidence tampering. Aiding and abetting criminal activity in billable, 50-minute intervals. Book me.
Friends help survivors heal, and with that, trauma reactions (aka: evidence) can fade away. Lock up the sleaze-ball friends.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t limit the legal definition of friends to the 3-D kind. Any meaningful connection survivors have can potentially help. Throw the book at the survivor’s Facebook friends and owners of pages they’ve liked.
You get the idea.
Remember, sexual assault remains widespread. And while it’s estimated that roughly only 3% of those raped become pregnant, still, if your bill is adopted, jails could be filled even more to the gills with evidence tamperers. Only about 3% of rapists ever spend a nanosecond in jail, so nearly all of them will be running around free while their victims are incarcerated, but whatever. Eyes on the prize. The spectacularly lucrative prison industry bonus prize. You could start a whole sub-niche of evidence-tampering, sexual-assault-surviving prisoners and help the ailing New Mexico economy. Other states could adopt the same. The national economy could be saved. Hooray! You’ll be a heroine! (Then you could quit the New Mexico House and become a lobbyist for the prison industry. Cha-ching!)
And while you’re exploring the possibilities, think outside the evidence-tampering box. The Rolodex of criminal offenses is your oyster. What about fraud? Exploding a destructive device with intent to injure? Practicing dentistry without a license? Willfully or negligently causing a train crash by an engineer? Surely, you can just as easily work these charges into your bill somehow. What about civil law? Character defamation? I know I’ve heard survivors say less-than positive things about their assailants. Keep those creative ideas flowing.
This is all super exciting! I can’t wait to see what absolutely sane legislation you introduce next. I’ll be watching. And so will countless women in New Mexico and across the country.
In the meantime, thanks, Representative Brown, for lending your voice of reason and compassion to the increasingly well-reasoned and compassionate political chorus. As a New Mexico resident and as a woman, I’m bursting with pride.
PS: Since the writing of this letter you’ve apparently gotten a bit of backlash from the “US Out of My Uterus” crowd who will never appreciate your visionary and groundbreaking legislation. This has forced you to scramble a bit to change HB206’s language to obscure the gist. But, never fear, we know where your heart is and we get the gist. You’re not one to be reckoned with. Watch out, Roe v. Wade, you’re in Representative Brown’s sights! And on the 40th anniversary, too. Nice!
Carol Norris is a psychotherapist, activist, and freelance writer who puts forward that regardless of where you live, you might send personalized kudos to New Mexico State Representative Cathrynn Brown here: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’ve been sexually assaulted, get support. Call RAINN, a confidential national sexual assault hotline that will connect you with local help. 1.800.656.HOPE. (This writer is not affiliated with them in any way.)