Greetings from Austin, TX! I’m writing this month’s Letter from the Director from Texas where between sightseeing, eating a lot of tacos, and listening to great music, I was also able to make my voice heard at the Texas State Capitol for the Women’s March. Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed into law the most restrictive legislation against abortion in the country, putting Roe v Wade at risk not only in Texas, but across the country. The Women’s March was held this past Saturday, October 2, in Washington, D.C. and in 600 cities across the country to speak up for a person’s right to abortion healthcare.
Bodily integrity—the inviolability of the physical body and the emphasis of the importance of personal autonomy, self-ownership, and self-determination of human beings over their own bodies—is a fundamental value of the Sexual Assault Resource Agency. Any infringement to that integrity and autonomy, such as denying access to abortion healthcare, is an act of violence against that person. This is why we at SARA support a person’s decision to have an abortion.
Abortion is much more than a “women’s issue” and the intersection between sexual, gender, and racial violence impacts a person’s access to reproductive justice. Below are some questions and answers that help grow our knowledge and understanding of these intersections.
Q: Why does abortion legislation in Texas matter to us here in Virginia?
A: Texas can be seen as a bellwether for abortion access across the country. Leaders in reproductive justice understand that this Texas legislation is a roadmap to what could be done in other states, as well as putting Roe v Wade at risk.
Q: Would it be good enough to have exceptions for rape and incest in abortion legislation?
A: No. “Rape exceptions” for abortion services put the burden of proof on a survivor. It can be bureaucratic and confusing at best. At worst, it can require people to rely on systems and institutions that have historically perpetrated oppression and violence.
Q: People who report rape and present at the hospital are provided with emergency contraception (EC). Why is there a need for abortion services for survivors of rape beyond that?
A: Not all survivors report their rape to law enforcement or go to the hospital. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimate that only four in 10 rapes are reported at all. That number drops for marginalized groups such as communities of color, undocumented people, and LGBTQ+. Access to abortion healthcare for survivors of sexual assault should be disconnected from the criminal justice system.
Q: What does the term “reproductive coercion” mean and what does it have to do with sexual assault and abortion?
A: The CDC defines reproductive coercion is a form of sexual violence primarily perpetrated by an intimate partner. It involves exerting power and control over reproduction through interference with contraception use and pregnancy pressure. People who were raped by a current or former intimate partner also reported high rates of reproductive coercion and rape-related pregnancy.
These are just a few realities that many of us don’t consider when we think about sexual violence and abortions. At the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, we believe survivors and trust their choices about their bodies. For that reason, we will continue to support and fight for reproductive justice.