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Proposed New Mexico law would send rape victims to prison for having abortions

It’s another one of those unbelievable moments in the so-called GOP “war on women.”

A rape victim could be charged with a felony and face up to three years in prison if she aborts a child conceived in that rape, according to a bill proposed by New Mexico state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-Carlsbad). The crime? Tampering with evidence.

New Mexico rep. Cathrynn Brown has garnered national attention after news of her proposed bill went viral. (Facebook)

New Mexico House Bill 206 states: “Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.”

According to the proposed law, even the physician who performs the abortion could be charged with a crime.

Because New Mexico’s House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats, there’s not much concern about the bill actually passing to become state law. But it’s causing a furor on social media. A Facebook page, “Cathrynn Brown Must Resign NOW,” was established late Thursday afternoon.

Brown has failed to respond on Facebook or Twitter, but is back-pedaling her position, now admitting that the bill was poorly written. She wanted to make it a crime for the rapist, in cases of incest, to force the victim to have an abortion. That makes more sense: A stepfather who rapes his teen stepdaughter and insists she have an abortion to hide the “evidence” of incest could face criminal charges.

The legislation “was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims,” Brown, who just started her second term as a state legislator, said.

If the proposed bill was aimed at fighting abortion, it would affect a small number: Only 1 percent of abortions are due to rape or incest. As many as 32,000 women  become pregnant each year as a result of rape. Results from studies about what these women choose to do vary widely: Around 26 percent to 50 percent get abortions, 6 percent to 36 percent give the child up for adoption, and 32 percent to 64 percent raise the child.

But the damage is done. Brown joins the ranks of such infamous Republicans as Todd Akin  and Richard Mourdock. Akin most likely lost his bid for the U.S. Senate when he said women could “shut down” the ability to conceive in cases of “legitimate rape.” Mourdock’s convoluted response during a debate for the U.S. Senate seat sounded too much like rape was “a gift from God.”

We’ve actually enjoyed 12 days of no mentions of rape by a member of the GOP, according to a Web site “inspired” by Stephen Colbert. It’s a pity that streak had to end.

Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.


Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

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