The Rape Crisis Network Ireland has released a statement today detailing statistics concerning pregnancies resulting from rape, as well as the number of those women that chose to terminate their pregnancies. It is a timely item for discussion given the recent publication of Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill 2012, and the fact abortion is once again, on the minds of many. In saying that, the release of this statement in the context of this legislation demonstrates just how far behind Ireland is – this legislation, if passed, would not actually allow for abortion in cases where the pregnancy was a result of rape.
When pregnancy and rape come up in discussions, anti-choice activists tend to be fairly consistent in their willingness to withhold access to abortion for women when they have been raped, and they tend to anchor their argument in the idea that because pregnancy as a result of rape is “rare” that this somehow means that a woman who has been violated in the first instance should have her body further violated by being forced to carry to term the pregnancy of her rapist. The real meaning of that kind of rhetoric is, “Pregnancy from rape is rare; and you do not own your body anyway; therefore you will not make choices as to what happens with it.”
But even if the assertion that pregnancy from rape is rare was correct, the rarity of a pregnancy does not mean that it is a valid reason to withhold access to abortion for a rape survivor. It is bad enough that anti-choice lobbyists do not believe in the most basic self-determination of a person that would afford a woman a choice as to what happens her body normally, but it really does take a special kind of person to tell a rape victim that she should be compelled to carry a pregnancy of rape to full term against her will.
The RCNI Director Fiona Neary has said of the statistics,
“The RCNI would have concerns that any rape survivor would be subject to restrictions and would have to travel oversees to another jurisdiction in order to access a termination….. RCCs will continue to support survivors in making decisions which survivors feel are the right choices for their circumstances.”
The statistics are so disturbing they deserve to be reproduced here in their entirety;
“In 2010 1,545 survivors of sexual violence attended Rape Crisis Centres (RCCs). Of these, a small number became pregnant as a result of rape; in total 75 girls and women. These girls and women made different choices:
Ten survivors of rape chose to terminate their pregnancies (13%)
Ten survivors chose to place their child for adoption or fostering (13%)
Forty three survivors went on to parent their children (57%)
Nine survivors of rape miscarried or had stillbirths (12%)
Three survivors became pregnant more than once as a result of rape and chose different options in each pregnancy (4%)….”
What is important to note about these statistics is not only were there 75 girls and women who were made pregnant as a result of rape, this figure only represents the number of women who attended Rape Crisis Centres over the course of one year.
This of course does not reflect the total figure of women who were raped during 2010 and did not attend a Rape Crisis Centre – which is much higher, and which would logically leave the figure of pregnancy resulting from rape higher again, and in turn increase the figure of the number of women who went on to choose a termination in this scenario. These numbers may be small, but that does not mean that the experience or trauma of their rape and subsequent pregnancy is somehow lessened by that.
Naturally, for the forced-birth advocates of the anti-choice movement this trauma is utterly meaningless.