A New Mexico lawmaker has introduced legislation that would prohibit rape victims from having an abortion and charge violators with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence”.
The evidence, in this case, would be the fetus. Republican Rep. Cathrynn Brown on Wednesday introduced House Bill 206, which forces victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term as evidence for the sexual assault trial that would ensue after the baby’s birth.
The bill states that “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.”
In the state of New Mexico, a third-degree felony carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
Democrats hold a majority in the New Mexico legislature, making it unlikely that the bill will pass. But even though few believe it will go into effect, the proposal has sparked an outcry of criticism against Brown.
“The bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” said Pat Davis of the nonprofit group, ProgressNow New Mexico. “According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.”
In response to the criticism, Brown came out with a statement on Thursday, promising to revise the bill and ‘clarify’ what she intended.
She told the New Mexico Telegram that the bill “was never intended to punish or criminalize rape victims” and was instead drafted to further punish offenders.
“Its intent is solely to deter rape and cases of incest. The rapist – not the victim – would be charged with tampering of evidence,” she said. “I am submitting a substitute draft to make the intent of the legislation abundantly clear."
But the original wording of the bill does not support Brown’s statement. It considers “procuring an abortion as tampering with evidence” a third-degree felony, which would penalize the woman.
After the media widely disseminated articles about the bill, accompanied with immense criticism, Brown removed her contact information from her website and posted the amended version of the bill.
“A person who commits criminal sexual penetration or incest and who procures an abortion of a fetus resulting from the crime with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime is guilty of tampering with evidence,” the new version of the bill states. But instead of clarifying the legislation, the new wording makes it even more vague, since a male rapist cannot “procure” an abortion in the way that the wording applies.
“We fail to see how saddling a rape victim with an unwanted pregnancy is punishing a rapist,” wrote Cosmopolitan’s Korin Miller. “Not only are we disappointed in this law, … we’re really ticked that it came from a woman.”
If passed, the legislation would go into effect on July 1, 2013.