Remember Dan Quayle? He was the vice-president for George Bush I who was cruelly and sometimes unfairly mocked in the press for being really dumb.
He did say things that were ignorant, and callous, too. Here is what he had to say about abortion in the case of rape…
“My position is that I understand from a medical situation, immediately after a rape is reported, that a woman normally, in fact, can go to the hospital and have a D and C. At that time… that is before the forming of a life. That is not anything to do with abortion.”
Vice President Dan Quayle explaining that Dilatation and Curettage, a form of abortion which occurs after fertilization, is not really abortion.
Reported in the Washington post, 11/03/88
Medically this is insane. A woman who has suffered a rape, possibly an exposure to a disease, will not stroll into the hospital to have her womb scraped out–(presumably to remove all the microscopic sperm that are striving to create the miracle of life.) In 1988 that woman would be lucky if she were even able to get competent and compassionate medical care at any random ER. The practice of the forensic exam for rape and medical treatment of victims is a recent development in women’s care.
You might not expect a politician whose greatest talent was looking good in a suit to be well-informed about these things, or especially concerned for victims of crime. But it really is frightening that Quayle’s statement was in the context of stating his opposition to legal abortion in all cases, and knowing that he had considerable power to influence policy that affects women’s lives. And knowing that he was so callously disinterested in those women that he never even bothered to find out what happens to a rape victim who seeks emergency help.
Legal abortion remains controversial. There are a range of opinions on when, or whether, it might be necessary for a woman to terminate a pregnancy. Surely an obstetrician, a man who puts his experience as a doctor front and forward as a reason to trust his judgement on matters related to the practice of health care in America– surely that man should speak with knowledge and compassion. Surely his experience in caring for thousands of women would put a face on the reality of sexual assault. Sadly, this crime is so common that anyone who is dedicated to women’s health has heard survivor stories.
Instead, Dr. Ron Paul shows his disinterest in the reality of women’s lives, in current practice for care of crime victims, his judgementalness and lack of curiosity or willingness to look beyond the rigid thinking he has shown on this issue.
In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Ron Paul echoes Dan Quayle.
He says that ‘if it’s honest rape’ a woman should go ‘immediately to the ER to get a shot of estrogen. An hour or a day after, you have no medical or legal problem.’ When Piers Morgan asks Ron Paul what happens if the victim is ashamed or unable to get help and shows up days or weeks later, Paul dodges the question and goes into a rant about women demanding abortions of late-term pregnancies.
I will post a transcript when one becomes available.
Just for the record, ‘a shot of estrogen’ is not the current standard of care for a rape victim. The infamous ‘morning after’ pill is what is given. The rape exam can be done up to 4 days after the assault, though the chance of getting DNA evidence decreases with time. Medical care for a woman who has been injured, fears a sexually transmitted disease, or an unwanted pregnancy can be done later.
Ron Paul seems to be saying that if you can’t prove sperm met egg, it’s okay. He also says, ‘if it’s honest rape’. Who will be the judge of that? Anyone who has worked with victims of crime– any crime, knows that the story can be confused, contradictory and sordid. Should the rape exam include an inquisition as to whether the victim has a right to treatment at all?
We’re almost thirty years on, and still a man presumes to make policy for women’s lives– displaying a mistrust of women’s honesty, and a disinterest in the dirty details of what happens in the real world.
Follow this link for the standard of care for sexual assault survivors.
Follow this link for information about Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) , a nursing specialty instituted because doctors were unable to provide the sensitive, meticulous and time-consuming care needed by victims who come to the ER.
Any time a rapist is brought to justice by DNA evidence we should thank the SANE nurses who give respectful care to all victims. We should thank the women, physicians and nurses, who created this nursing specialty to help women to find care and healing.