Is Texas Raping Women?

Here’s a scenario for you:  A woman very much wants to do something that will have an enormous impact on the rest of her life.  Someone is stopping her from doing it, unless she lets that person vaginally penetrate her.  Is that rape?  Let me put it another way:  Is she freely consenting to that vaginal penetration?  I’m not the only one who thinks that she is not.

Nikolas Kristof’s recent article for the New York Times, When States Abuse Women, argues that Texas is now raping women who seek abortions.   In other words, before a woman can receive an abortion in Texas, she must submit to a vaginal ultrasound, regardless of medical need or the patient’s preference.  If you would like the details, check out the text of the new law enacted a few weeks ago.  This vaginal penetration isn’t the end of the story, either. She also has to also listen to a doctor explain the body parts and internal organs of the fetus as they’re shown on the monitor, and list specific dangers of abortion, like “risks of infection and hemorrhage,” and “the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer.” She is then required to sign a document saying that she understands all this, and then wait 24 hours before returning to get the abortion.

As a woman, as an advocate for sexual assault survivors, and as a person who has had plenty of uncomfortable, yet consensual, medical procedures, my heart goes out to any woman in Texas considering an abortion. Research shows that women who receive abortions without these requirements often do not experience negative mental health effects.  But I doubt that many of the women currently seeking abortions in Texas will escape with their mental health unharmed.  Of course, that is probably part of the point of this legislation.  And yet, I cannot think that -- whatever your opinion about the ethics of abortion -- legislatively sanctioning sexual assault is an appropriate solution to any problem.

What do you think of the argument that Texas has mandated sexually assaulting women who seek abortions?


Peg Shippert is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.  She has a deep passion for helping survivors of sexual violence.