House Republican Nancy Mace (R-SC) is perhaps best known for a feud with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) over abortion last year that resulted in Mace calling Taylor Greene “batshit crazy.” Mace is now making headlines again for a Sunday interview in which she claims to “absolutely” support exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape, incest, and threats to the life of the mother, amid leaked news about the Supreme Court’s plan to end Roe v. Wade. Her support for this notably comes from her own experience as a survivor, in yet another case of Republicans selectively shaping their views based on personal experience instead of just...having empathy for others.
“I am pro-life, but I do support exceptions for rape. I’m a rape victim myself,” Mace told Margaret Brennan on Face The Nation. “And when you realize what’s happened in your life, the trauma, the emotional, the mental, the physical trauma in a woman’s life, that decision—she should make that decision with her doctor and between her and her God.”
She went on to express support for Congressional legislation to enshrine a rape exception to abortion on the federal level. But as Jezebel previously reported, rape exceptions to state-level abortion bans have been increasingly disappearing, as anti-abortion lawmakers seem emboldened by their majority on the Supreme Court. Years of building and consolidating majorities in state houses have also rendered the need to present the image of compromise unnecessary.
Because that’s all that rape exceptions to abortion bans have ever been: the pretense of compromise, all while subjecting survivors and pregnant people to the state-sanctioned, gender-based violence that is forced pregnancy and birth.
As Alison Turkos, a reproductive justice activist and rape survivor previously told Jezebel, rape exceptions to abortion bans have always been about “using survivors as a shield,” and allowing their trauma to be “reduced to currency, measured with a yardstick to see if you can get an abortion.”
Instead of actually helping survivors, the inclusion of these exemptions has allowed anti-abortion politicians to make their laws appear more palatable, and deflect from criticisms of cruelty and misogyny. The exemption also encourages legislators to compartmentalize some abortions as good and for the “right reasons,” and further stigmatize all other people who have abortions. On an equally damning cultural level, rape exceptions have spread the misconception that rape is somehow easy for victims to “prove” to law enforcement or other authorities—minimizing the retraumatizing, arduous process of reporting rape as a mere footnote on the path to getting an abortion.
When Brennan asked Mace her opinion on some states’ restrictions that require rape victims to provide police reports in order to obtain an abortion, Mace predictably gave a non-answer. Instead, she pivoted to complain about attacks she faces when she talks about her lived experience. (Which, of course, she didn’t deserve. Just like any woman doesn’t deserve to be attacked—by the government, the Supreme Court, or anyone—for her own, personal reproductive choices.)
So, since Mace didn’t acknowledge this, I will: The overwhelming majority of sexual assaults aren’t reported to police, as most rape exceptions to abortion restrictions (including an Arkansas law signed last year) require them to be.
Further, data suggests few survivors who are impregnated by rape have historically even used the exception, rendering it a largely symbolic, rhetorical tool for “pro-life” politicians who, like Mace, want to present as reasonable. In the same interview, Mace claims “the vast majority of Republicans” actually support rape exceptions and... OK...? Do they want a cookie for including a gentle little side-note in their attack on pregnant people’s human rights? Mace’s comments are ultimately about as helpful as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claiming last summer that he would “eliminate rape,” when confronted about how Texas’ near-total abortion ban, S.B.8, lacks a rape exception.
Because what she and Abbott and others in her caucus who paradoxically claim to both care about survivors and oppose abortion rights are ignoring is that there’s only one real way to prevent survivors from being forced by the state to carry their rapists’ babies—and it’s pretty simple: Don’t ban or restrict abortion.