The (Im)Practicality of a Rape Exception

My FindLaw column for next week will tackle the subject of the "rape exception" that some abortion opponents would recognize to a proposed abortion ban. This exception provides a useful opportunity to glimpse what pro-life advocates find objectionable about abortion.

One aspect of the rape exception that I will not discuss in the column is the practicality of such an exception, assuming that one favors it in principle. If only rape victims are allowed to have an abortion, many women who are desperate to terminate an unwanted pregnancy will feel forced to lie and say they were raped. One could respond to this "moral hazard," of course, by requiring a woman to report to the rape to the police before she may terminate on that basis. As everyone knows, however, rape victims often choose not to report the crime because of the stigma and humiliation associated with victimization and the often-callous treatment they face as they navigate the criminal justice system. The result of requiring a report would therefore be to drive rape victims away from a desired abortion -- at least by a lawful practitioner. Perhaps some abortion opponents would find this consequence tolerable, but for those who think the "rape exception" is a workable compromise, such pragmatic realities might lead them to think again.

While on the subject of abortion, rape, and women's freedom, I recommend that readers check out Professor Kim Yuracko's review of my book, When Sex Counts: Making Babies and Making Law, which appears today at the FindLaw site.