Abortion bans in Ohio, Alabama would punish sexual assault victims | News Coverage from USA

Abortion bans in Ohio, Alabama would punish sexual assault victims

opinion

I was that 11-year-old pregnant by rape in Ohio, except I had just turned 12 and lived in Florida. There will be more children like us, including in Alabama when its near-total abortion ban, which doesn’t include exceptions to rape victims, goes into effect.

Police reports tell the little girl’s story: 26-year-old rapist, raped multiple times, pregnant but wouldn’t be allowed to have an abortion under a new Ohio law going into effect this July.

News commentators tell her story: some as an example, some as a detractor, some with more concern for their political message than her painful realities.

Twitter is debating her story: her age, her worth, her rapist, her pregnancy, her baby, her fetus, her rights, its rights.

She is 11. She has experienced and is experiencing violating trauma. Maybe someday she will tell her story, but today is not that day.

I can tell my story, though. I was newly 12. I lived in a suburb of Tampa. I had gotten my period a couple years before, and it came regularly once it started. I knew to expect it every 32 days.

An underage rape victim out of options

It was July, the summer between sixth and seventh grade, when days 33, 34, 35 and more passed with no period. I had read in one of my sister’s Seventeen magazines that periods aren’t always regular, so I figured this was my first one of those.

It wasn’t.

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I had a later abortion because I couldn’t give my baby girl both life and peace

When I was two weeks late, I threw up for the first time. I was confused initially, because it didn’t feel like my experiences with stomach bugs or bulimia.

Then I remembered when Becky from “Full House” had been sick and pregnant with their twins. I did the math. Then I walked a mile-and-a-half to the store, lied to the clerk about needing to get one for my mom, stuck the bag in my fanny pack and began the walk home. Once I got to a familiar grove of trees, I walked in deep, smacking at mosquitoes along the way, until I knew it was safe. I took off my sandals and shorts and underwear, the kid kind with some cartoonish character on them. I read the instructions in detail, three times.

Then I took the test, put on my clothes again and climbed a tree, test in pocket, to wait for the answer. While I waited, I picked at my skinned knee until it started bleeding.

As soon as I saw the results, I scrambled back down the tree to double-check the box. The results were clear. I was six weeks pregnant, and seventh grade was starting at the end of the month.

I’ve left out a key detail. I never chose to have sex at such a young age, but abusers in my family chose to rape me. I had lost count of the number of times by then. With a dad high ranking in the county sheriff’s office, I didn’t trust going to the police. I had tried to tell teachers and church volunteers, but that never went anywhere, either.

But I felt like this pregnancy brought hope, so much so that I named the baby inside me Hope. I was sure Hope’s existence would bring about change. No one could deny my abuse with genetic proof. I thought my parents would make me quietly get an abortion if I told them, so I didn’t. I carried Hope and secrets into seventh grade.

Little girls shouldn’t have full wombs

I’m not going to share the sacred details of when my hope and my Hope died a couple months later, as I had a miscarriage before I knew what one was. But I thought about those moments when I read about the 11-year-old girl in Ohio. She can’t tell her story, so I’m telling mine.

I need you to know that any child’s pregnancy is the result of rape, because no child can consent to sex. I need you to know that any child’s pregnancy is traumatic, no matter the outcome, because little girls aren’t supposed to have full wombs. I need you to know that I didn’t know I had options, because I knew girls who got pregnant were called sluts and girls who had abortions were called murderers.

And I need you to know that if I had lived under the Ohio law recently passed, I would have been too late to consider abortion by the time I realized I was pregnant. And if I had lived under the Alabama bill likely to be signed into law, being a repeated rape victim wouldn’t given me any options.

If my life were in imminent danger, the Ohio law would permit a later abortion, but being gangly and pregnant at age 12 isn’t a life risk.

I know responses to my story will include ones about how what happened to me is rare. I’m the exception, not the norm, they’ll say.

But I need you to know that every story is unique. Every discussion of abortion between a woman and her doctor is different. Something that might put one mother’s life or health at risk might not be a problem for someone else.

This is why abortion can’t be dictated by legislators. This is why abortion decisions must be made individually, between a woman and her doctor.

That Ohio girl’s story is being used as a prop in political discourse, but abortion rights matter because she isn’t an object. She is a person, same as me when I was 12 and pregnant.

Our humanity matters, in both debates and legislation.

Shannon Dingle is a mother of six and a writer working on her first book, “Living Brave,” with HarperOne. Follow her on Twitter @shannondingle

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