Under-the-Radar Violence in the Conflict Over Abortion
A second factor contributing to this lower reporting problem is the victim’s desire for secrecy. When a woman is abortion-minded, there is usually at least one other person she does not want to know about her pregnancy. In fact, this is often her primary, if not sole, motivation for the abortion. Of course, in order to inform the authorities that she was sexually assaulted at an abortion clinic, she has to be prepared to give up that secrecy.
This pursuit of secrecy is common in all age groups but it is especially prevalent among the youngest abortion clients. Some are hiding their pregnancies from friends, relatives, classmates or fellow church members. Others are trying to keep their parents from finding out that they are sexually active. It should also be remembered that, among girls 15 and younger who get pregnant, studies show that the majority are impregnated by adults. Given that, it is logical to expect that many of these girls have abortions in order to keep their partners from going to jail. It is also known that men in adult-child sexual relationships often use intimidation and violence against their victims in order to keep them silent.
For underage girls, these additional barriers are going to reduce even further the already low reporting rate for sex-based crimes.
In the final analysis, women and girls who are raped or sexually assaulted at abortion clinics are silenced by: (a) the stigma of having been sexually assaulted, (b) the stigma of having had an abortion and/or (c) a desire for secrecy that they often see as trumping every other consideration.
In effect, they face a decision comparable to the one faced by married men who are robbed while
frequenting prostitutes. In both situations, if the victims report the crimes committed against them, information about their own behavior will be revealed that they do not want known. Under those circumstances, it easy to understand why they are rarely going to say anything. When that reality is considered in light of the number of instances that are reported, it is apparent that a startling number of women are being sexually assaulted inside American abortion clinics.
Beyond that, there are several other categories of subterranean abortion-related violence. The largest of these, and the subject of this report, is women who are attacked for refusing to have abortions. Over the years, we have collected data on a large volume of these cases, the bulk of which are non- fatal assaults. Although the victims of these attacks often suffer horrifying and crippling physical injuries, we chose to concentrate solely on instances in which the victim died. Therefore, those are the only types of case histories you will find in this document.
It is crucial to understand that, whether the issue is injury or death, several factors make it impossible to do a comprehensive study of this subject. The most powerful of them is the hard-wired human instinct for self-preservation. It dictates that most people are going to do what they are told if the alternative is to be the recipient of pain and violence – especially if the end result could be their death.
Pregnant women are certainly not immune to this. When told that they will be beaten, shot, stabbed or worse unless they have abortions, almost all of them are going to comply. The problem is that, while this is an entirely understandable response, it virtually guarantees that no one will ever know about the violence done to these women. From a research perspective, these cases become invisible at the moment the victims decide not to end up in the police station, the emergency room or the morgue.
Also contributing to this invisibility is the abortion stigma mentioned earlier. Despite almost 40 years of legality, this stigma remains as strong as ever and it prevents the vast majority of women from wanting others to know about their abortions – even if those abortions were forced upon them. Clearly, this is going to significantly reduce the number of cases in any study about abortion-related violence.