How Abortion is Useful for Rape Culture
by Rachel MacNair
During this time of uproar over an allegation against Brett Kavanaugh of committing attempted rape when he was 17, I’d like to remark on the connection of the violence of rape with the violence of abortion. I see it much differently from many of the pundits.
It’s a mark of social progress to have the idea that a man attempting a rape in his teens should be career-destroying. This is of course only fair if the man did in fact do it. Yet in bygone days (and even today in some commentaries) attempted rape was regarded by many as merely “youthful folly.” If we can communicate to privileged young men (and everyone else) that this behavior is incredibly harmful and therefore intolerable, that would be some good that can come out of current events.
Much of the commentary on the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh focuses on the culture of prep schools in the 1980s. That culture involved heavy drinking and a sense of male entitlement to female bodies, oblivious to the harm this did to women and girls. Then some commentators assume that being against legalized abortion is also anti-woman, and propose that the two attitudes go together.
But we’re talking about the 1980s in the U.S. – with teenagers who were young children at the time Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nation-wide in 1973. And of course ever since 1973, all young people who got to be born were born with freely-available abortion.
What does having abortion handy do to men who have a sense of male entitlement to female bodies?
If asking the question isn’t sufficient to have the answer come, let me give an illustration:
Affidavit of a Student Nurse
The State of South Carolina vs. J. F., Case No. 30159:
It was my job to assist the doctors. I scrubbed with Dr. F. While scrubbing at the sink, Dr. F. kidded me about my size. He said that birth control pills would put some weight on me. He asked me if I was on them. I didn’t need to be. He then said he would give me a prescription. I assisted him with the delivery and after cleaning the instruments, I went out to the nurses’ station.
[Later that day] Just as I was leaving the lounge, Dr. F. was, as it appeared, on his way to the doctors’ lounge. He said, “come here,” and started walking down the hall. I said, “I’m not going in there.” He then said, “that’s not where we’re going.” I then asked, “where are we going?” Then he said, “you never ask a doctor where he’s going.” Then he grabbed my arm and pulled me down the stairs. . . . Still holding on to me, he took me down the hall on the left as you leave the stairs. He pulled me into a dark room on the left. Once in the room, I saw it was still under construction. The halls were completely empty. I didn’t see anyone when I came onto the floor or when I left.
Thinking I could reason with him, I begged him to let me go. But he wouldn’t listen. He didn’t say anything and kept trying to kiss me. I kept pulling away and he kept tightening his grip on my arms. Then he said, “we’ve got to work out something.” I said, “no!” He seemed to really be mad and I pulled away to head for the door and he jerked my arm. I knew now he had no intentions of letting me go. I was afraid to scream. I feared for my life. He then began pulling down my scrub suit pants and I fought him, but he kept one of my arms behind my back and he was able to get them down. I struggled with him, but he kept both my arms in his grip. I wasn’t strong enough to get away and he knew it. He raped me. He then backed away from me and as I stood there crying, he said, “I knew there wouldn’t be another time or place.”
This came to my attention because in addition to this hospital, Dr. F worked in an abortion clinic. His wanting to prescribe her birth control, and knowing full well of abortion’s availability, went along with the clear sense of entitlement he showed.
Getting rid of rape culture is crucial to stopping abortion – obviously, abortion for those impregnated by rape goes out the window if there is no rape. That’s by far the ideal way of handling the “rape exception.”
But getting rid of abortion is crucial to stopping rape culture, too. A major feature of that culture is a sense of male entitlement. There are men who feel all the more entitled if in case of pregnancy they understand they’re only making the woman go and exercise a “constitutional right.” The callousness toward the baby, and the callousness about having done something that leads to the woman having surgery, these go along with the astonishing callousness of the original assault.
For more of our blog posts on similar topics, see:
A Pro-Life Feminist Critique of the “Rape and Incest Exception” by Rachel MacNair