Representatives of an organization that works daily with rape victims say any bill that mandates reporting of rape before an abortion is potentially harmful.
The Rape Crisis Center board of directors held a press conference Friday to voice opposition to a proposed abortion limitation bill, less than two hours after lawmakers agreed on a compromise bill that would eliminate some of the most restrictive aspects of the earlier proposal. They were happier with the compromise, they said, but still concerned."The decisions as to what medical care a woman has should be left to the woman and her doctor, not legislators," said Carla Western, secretary of the Rape Crisis Center board. "She needs to have control back in her life as much as possible."
The issue, for the Rape Crisis Center, was a provision in the bill proposed by a statewide abortion task force that would allow rape victims an abortion only if the rape was reported to police within five days. Many women will have to carry a child conceived in rape because they won't be willing to report it, they said.
Under the compromise, a woman would still have to report rape before seeking an abortion, but there is no mandated time frame.
"There are real misperceptions about rape," said Rep. Joanne Milner, D-Salt Lake, who was a member of the task force and also serves on the center's board of directors. Most rapes are not "blitz" attacks by strangers, but are "confidence" rapes, committed by someone the victim knows and trusts. For that reason, statistics show, many women are reluctant to report the rape. Reasons for reluctance include fear they won't be believed and embarrassment.
"With incest in particular, you're not going to have someone report. If you restrict it and don't allow choices, you force them to sustain pregnancies they don't want or know what to do about," said Jamee Roberts, board vice chairwoman.
Roberts said that because rape is a traumatic event, many women are psychologically unable to report the crime for some time. Many never do. There are "myths surrounding law enforcement" that may make women more timid about reporting. Statistically, she said, few women report the crime in less than three days.
Milner said she doubted that women would claim to be raped in order to get an abortion. "I believe that women will abide by the law."
Fear of a police investigation would also discourage false reporting, she said.