A UK rape charity has blasted a US bill that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term as “horrendous”.
The bill, introduced by New Mexico Republican lawmaker Cathrynn Brown, would potentially charge a rape victim who ended her pregnancy with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”
She said: “Your body is not a crime scene. There are all sorts of forensics that can be carried out after a rape without the need to carry a baby to full term.
“The suggestion that we are legally obliged to put crime scene tape around a rape survivor for nine months is absurd. Words fail me, really.
“If such a thing were suggested in Britain, I am sure there would be a total outcry.”
Brown’s House Bill 206 currently 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.”
Third degree felonies in New Mexico can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.
Think Progress points out that under the bill if a woman ended her pregnancy after being raped, both she and her doctor could charged. It adds the bill would “add the forced choice between prison or an unwanted pregnancy “ to sexual assault trial proceedings.
The bill has been branded "blatantly unconstitutional" by Pat Davis of progressive non-profit group ProgressNow New Mexico.
He added: “In addition to being blatantly unconstitutional, the bill turns victims of rape and incest, who have just been through a horrible sexual assault, into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state.
“According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case."
The bill is unlikely to pass, as Democrats have a majority in both chambers of New Mexico's state legislature.
Following the outcry over her proposals on Wednesday, Brown issued a statement on Thursday insisting the bill’s goal is to punish the person who commits the incest or rape and then procures or facilitates an abortion to destroy evidence of the crime.
She said: “New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders. By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state.”
Salon points out Brown's damage control campaign is ongoing - with her contact information being removed from her legislature page.
Additionally, Brown tells the Carlsbad Current-Argus the "poorly written" bill is currently being reworked for clarity.
The paper reports Brown missed the "language problems that led to misinterpretation of her bill" and that a "drafting error occurred".
She said: "I started getting real nasty phone calls from people around the country. Some national publications and TV stations published stories that I was against the victim. That's far from the truth. I want to protect the victim."
Rape Crisis is a registered charity and the national umbrella organisation for Rape Crisis Centres across England and Wales. It campaigns to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence and highlights the importance and need for high quality, specialised support.