Don’t Roll Back the Progress on Legal Protections for Rape and Abortion

WLP Executive Director Carol E. Tracy has penned an op-ed for The Crime Report about legislators’ recent attempts to erase hard-fought legal protections for rape victims and women needing abortion care. An excerpt:

Societies that have no respect for the bodily integrity and personal autonomy of women have in common permissive laws about rape and restrictive laws about abortion.  It should come as no surprise, then, that an ardent opponent of abortion, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), on February 1, 2011, attempted to further narrow the already-limited definition of rape used in the Hyde Amendment (which constrains the use of federal funds for abortion) by restricting it to “forcible” rape.

Although an immediate national outcry by women’s groups caused Smith to remove the word the next day, the attempt to codify such a limitation demonstrates the effort of some lawmakers in this country to roll back the progress towards equality that women in American have achieved over the last several decades.

Rape has an ignominious legal history.  Under English common law―from which our laws developed―rape was a crime against property, not person.  A woman’s reproductive capacity, in the form of her chastity, was the property and was essential to establish patriarchal inheritance rights.

Make sure to read the whole thing here.


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The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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