Texas Governor Greg Abbott posed a lukewarm solution this week when challenged about his state’s abortion ban that makes no exception for rape or incest: take Plan B.
The Republican governor’s horribly thought out solution for victims of sexual assault was offered during a radio segment that will air Sunday on the local radio program Lone Star Politics, The Dallas Morning News first reported.
“We want to support those victims, but also those victims can access health care immediately, as well as to report it,” Mr Abbott said, perhaps not realizing that this solution misses the fact that, as recently as 2016, nearly 80 per cent of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported, according to the Justice Department.
“By accessing health care immediately, they can get the Plan B pill that can prevent a pregnancy from occurring in the first place. With regard to reporting it to law enforcement, that will ensure that the rapist will be arrested and prosecuted,” the GOP governor expanded.
Before the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v Wade came down in June, the Lone Star state still had some of the nation’s most restrictive rules when it came to performing the procedure.
In the fall of last year, Texas passed a bill that outlawed the procedure in most cases after six weeks – when cardiac activity can first begin to be detected by clinicians in the embryo – making the ban colloquially referred to as a heartbeat bill.
Mr Abbott, who is facing a gubernatorial challenge by progressive Beto O’Rourke this fall, has been called out by his Democratic opponent for having ineffective policies when it comes to tackling the state’s crime and reproductive rights.
“Greg Abbott signed the most extreme abortion ban in the nation with no exception for rape or incest,” said campaign spokesman Chris Evans in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. “The arrest rate for rape has fallen by nearly half since he took office as he allows over 3,000 untested rape kits to collect dust in his state crime labs.”
Mr O’Rourke’s campaign spokesperson’s accusation about the state’s rape kit backlog was proven true based on a recent investigation conducted by The Dallas Observer. In the local newspaper’s findings, they uncovered that within the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), there are currently 3,510 kits being tested across the state.
That list, the outlet pointed out, doesn’t include the two separate backlogs from Dallas County, which are not part of the DPS. In one of those backlogs, with kits dating back as far as 1996, there are 1,000 kits sitting dormant, and in the second, running from 2011 to 2019, there are around 900 kits.
Even outside of the governor’s suggestion that the key to stopping unwanted pregnancies from rape would be reporting sexual assault, health experts balked at his solution that Plan B could be the sole solution to stopping unwanted pregnancies at the source.
Emergency contraception, particularly in a state where Medicaid does not cover it for low-income individuals, is not widely accessible.
Furthermore, Plan B is not entirely effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies and is suspected to be even less so if you’re a person who is overweight. According to a 2016 study, people with a BMI of 30 or higher had a significantly lower level of levonorgestrel EC in their bloodstream than people with lower BMIs.
Outside of efficacy, accessibility to emergency contraceptive is an important barrier that the governor did not elaborate on while delivering his remarks on the radio programme.
Public health experts warned in the same Dallas Morning News article that physicians and medical providers may be wary of even broaching the topic of Plan B with patients, out of fear that it could violate the state’s new law which includes broad language that suggests that lawsuits could be brought against individuals who aid, abet or perform abortions.
The Texas governor did concede on one point in the abortion ban debate. That is, he wanted to clarify the language around the state’s new laws so that it made it clear that when a person’s life is in danger during a pregnancy – such as during an ectopic pregnancy – there could be exceptions.
“We need to provide more clarity of what we are doing to protect the life of the mother,” Mr Abbott said. “There seems to be ambiguity out there about protecting the life of the mother. That’s of paramount importance, whether it be what’s called an ectopic pregnancy, or it could be some other issues that mothers are having. Doctors need to be aware of all the different things they can do to save the life of the mother.”
Mr Abbott and Mr O’Rourke will face off against each other in the November midterms for the Texas governorship.