Missouri finds itself in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons again — this time, by giving new rights and opportunities to rapists.
By signing House Bill 126, which bans abortions even in the case of rape, incest or human trafficking, Gov. Mike Parson has spoken loud and clear. He wants rapists in Missouri to have more power over their victims. He wants a woman’s decisions over her health care to be criminalized. These positions are extreme and cruel.
I join the probable majority of Missourians who are appalled by this new law. But I also know this law represents another emotion for Missouri women — fear.
One of the biggest fears a woman has is for her personal safety — the fear of being assaulted or raped. We’ve come to accept the reality that we must protect ourselves from it. We’ve come to accept that we have to be prepared in everyday situations. This is why women carry rape whistles and pepper spray, and have emergency apps on our phones. We carry our keys between our fingers and wear nail polish that can detect date-rape drugs. If we go for a run, we’ve been told to leave one earbud out so we can hear someone coming up behind us.
Now, Missouri women have another fear — that in what is potentially their darkest hour, they will be unable to access the care they need. They have fear that if they become a victim of rape, incest or human trafficking, they will not have a choice in what comes next. Instead, a survivor of rape must accept that her attacker could have parental rights. Proponents of this law apparently are comfortable with the idea you could be forced to stand side by side in front of a judge, working out a shared custody plan with your rapist. That is truly frightening.
Too many in positions of power disregard women and do not consider — or do not care — how their policy choices amplify those fears. In Missouri, these politicians have consistently attacked the availability of contraception and prenatal and postnatal care. Now, when a woman needs health care the most, following a rape, they have said no again.
Women should be trusted to make their own health care decisions. In fact, it’s our constitutional right. Instead, we are subjected to extreme laws. It’s been happening for years, and it leaves all of us wondering what will come next. Considerations for the life and health of the mother could very well come under attack.
The governor and Republican lawmakers in Jefferson City have gone too far.
I am not alone in feeling this way. In fact, Republicans, Democrats and independents in our state and across the nation are shocked by this law. This includes President Donald Trump, who came out in opposition to this cruel public policy of not making exceptions in the case of rape or incest.
I’m frustrated to once again see Missouri portrayed this way, especially over an issue that is so personal to so many people.
Sometimes, the memories in the Capitol halls of Jefferson City are short. Even so, we all remember in 2012 when Todd Akin, the U.S. Senate nominee of the Republican Party, referred to “legitimate rape” and that a woman’s “body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” It made national headlines and was an embarrassment. Missourians refused to allow it.
Missouri women need health care. Missouri families need to know they have access to the constitutional rights granted under Roe v. Wade.
Instead, our state is once again at the forefront of extremism, because the governor is disrespecting women and delivering another dose of Akin. This time, it’s not just rhetoric, it’s the law.
Nicole Galloway is the Missouri state auditor.