John Koster Rape Thing Comment: Rape and Abortion in Washington and Idaho

I don’t know if you’ve met Washington Republican Congressional candidate John Koster and his take on “the rape thing”:

"On the rape thing, it's like, how does putting more violence onto a woman's body and taking the life of an innocent child that's a consequence of this crime — how does that make it better? You know what I mean?"

When his questioner pointed out “she has to live with the consequence of that crime,” Koster replied: “Crime has consequences. But how does it make it better by killing a child?” Methinks Koster need revisit some lessons on victimhood. Don’t worry, though. His campaign manager assured the AP that he “clearly takes rape seriously because he has strongly advocated cracking down on sex offenders.”

Washington

Not all Washington Republicans are like Tea Partier Koster, though. National abortion rhetoric — might I go so far as to call them memes — is not just a “thing” for some. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Michael Baumgartner has called “legitimate rape” “an idiotic comment,” and described Mourdock’s more recent intent-of-God affront as “inaccurate and unfortunate.” I would love to hear his response to Koster. Baumgartner says though he is personally against abortion, he has no intention to carry these beliefs into his federal legislative career. He is running against Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell.

In 1970, Washington became the first state to legalize abortion through popular vote. This early liberalism continues. State legislators in the 2012 session introduced the Reproductive Parity Act, which “would require every insurance policy in the state that covers maternity care to also cover abortions.” According to its sponsors, the bill would “protect women from any new barriers to abortion that would be imposed by the Affordable Care Act.” Democratic gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Representative Jay Inslee instantaneously announced support for the measure; his Republican opponent and current State Attorney General Rob McKenna did not take a stance.

The Act passed the House, but was blocked in the Senate. Still, it could be reconsidered in the future, in a special session or in 2013. And even though it contains a conscience exemption, it prompted non-Washingtonian Republican lawmakers in Washington D.C. to urge the administration to have DHHS “send the state a stern warning.” Washington would be the first state to mandate abortion coverage; though without any of the “usual” restrictions, it would just be the icing on the cake.

Idaho

Abortion will be an issue this election season in Idaho. Last week, Democratic State House and Senate candidates from the Boise area were targeted by Idaho Chooses Life with unsubstantiated claims on a political mailer that they "support abortion on demand" and are "pro-abortion liberals threatening preborn children with increased abortion rates."

In Idaho, the abortion debate is more than just hypothetical: the state made national news this fall because a US Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a woman who induced her own abortion in violation of state law.

In the end of 2010, an unemployed mother of three dependent on government assistance found herself pregnant. As in many states, the majority of women live in counties without abortion providers. For this woman, the nearest provider was more than a hundred miles away in Utah and would have cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Desperate, she ordered RU-486 off the internet but was too far along to use the drug. Her friend’s sister turned her in to the police and, arrested, she faced felony charges and up to five years in prison.

She was charged “under a 1972 Idaho law that requires abortions be performed by a physician at a licensed abortion facility.” Her criminal case was dismissed (but left open) because of a lack of conclusive evidence, but she and her lawyer proceeded to sue the state for the unconstitutional abortion restriction she was charged under, as well as for its then-newly-enacted fetal pain law, to protect her and women like her in the future.

Theirs was the first lawsuit in the country that challenged fetal pain laws. Though both U.S. District and 9th Circuit Appellate courts found she couldn’t challenge the fetal pain law, as she wasn’t charged under it, they did rule in favor of her challenge to the health care professional requirement law. An injunction was issued saying she could not be prosecuted under the 1972 law. Additionally, the Court found the law likely to be unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on women. Her lawyer can continue to pursue the suit over the fetal pain law.

Idaho was ahead of the curve on fetal pain laws.

When Republican Governor Butch Otter signed theirs into law in April 2011, it became only the third state in the nation to pass such a law. In March of this year, the Idaho Senate passed an ultrasound law; ultrasounds would be mandatory, but women would have the option to look at and listen to it. But in a surprise move, Republican Representative Tom Loertscher refused to schedule a committee hearing, stalling the bill. All bets had been on its passing handily.

Perhaps this Republican turnaround was in part due to State Senator Chuck Widmer’s comments during his Senate testimony: “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.”

Though they will not require ultrasounds anytime soon, Idaho does require parental consent, state-directed counseling and a 24-hour waiting period, and limits both public and private funding.

Editor's Note: With 3 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on:

Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, UtahWyomingNorth DakotaSouth DakotaNebraskaKansasOklahomaTexas, Louisiana ,Arkansas, MissouriKentuckyMinnesota, IllinoisIowaMississippiMichiganIndianaAlabama,OhioFloridaGeorgiaD.C.South CarolinaNorth CarolinaVirginia and MarylandPennsylvaniaDelawareNew JerseyNew YorkWisconsinConnecticutVermontMassachusetts & Rhode IslandMaine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Audrey Farber

After graduating from some prestigious university somewhere, I worked for academic research, social justice, and arts non-profits in the U.S., Israel, Jordan. I formerly ran a collective blogging project and contributed to Middle East-oriented discussions around the interwebs until I gave up on changing the world. I usually believe in complete social revolution and I make it a point to flout every social expectation I encounter. I do this by living in the Rocky Mountains (for realz) and complaining about tourists, enjoying waffles for dinner, putting easter egg links in my posts, and wishing I was way nerdier. I also like to think I'm the funniest person you've ever met, which may or may not be true. I've also driven across the country by myself more times than I'd care to admit.

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