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Exceptions to draconian abortion bans are mostly useless


A useful reminder from Jessica Valenti that Republicans “compromising” by adding some narrow exceptions to abortion bans that are nearly impossible to use in practice are not actually compromising:

Republicans in other anti-abortion states are doing the same: Some are giving viral speeches about the importance of supporting the most vulnerable women and girls, while others cry for the cameras or run campaign ads ensuring voters that despite past comments they will absolutely, of course, support rape and incest exceptions.

This shift in Republican messaging has mostly been framed by the media as a political softening sparked by polls showing how incredibly unpopular abortion bans are. That’s partly accurate, but it doesn’t come close to the whole story. 

The truth is that abortion exceptions are a lie: A political tool that’s more about helping Republicans’ public image than making abortion accessible to victims.

Yes, conservative politicians are spooked by voter outrage—but we need to remember that they knew this backlash was coming. For more than twenty years, more than 60 percent of Americans have opposed overturning Roe. Even as far back as 1989, more than half of the country didn’t want to see Roe done away with. 

Understanding that Republicans expected a huge public outcry shines a new light on their supposed-‘softening’ on abortion. By passing total abortion bans, Republicans are giving themselves the opportunity to add in exceptions later, making it seem as if they’ve ‘compromised’ on the issue.

This also one of the reasons why attempts to make direct comparisons between American and European abortion statutes are so grossly misleading — statutory language only meaningful in the context in which it will be actually implemented. Statutory exceptions mean little in jurisdictions where patients and doctors are justifiably fearful that they will be interpreted in bad faith by the relevant public officials.

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