Dear Representative Trent Franks: A Letter From A Survivor of Rape on D.C. Abortion Access
Yesterday the House Judiciary passed a ban on abortions in DC, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the mother. Bria Murray, a survivor of rape, responds to Representative Trent Franks' comments from the debate for the ban. The post is originally published on RH Reality Check and is cross posted with permission. Dear Representative Trent Franks, Today, I watched you debate during the markup for H.R. 3803, or, as you may know it, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks in Washington, DC. I watched you valiantly fight to save "the children" from their pain even in the case of rape or incest, or when a mother has been diagnosed with cancer and the treatment needed to save her life is incompatible with the continuation of her pregnancy. I watched you warn the rest of the judiciary committee that abortions are linked to higher rates of suicide, even though this "fact," and the basis for the bill itself (that 20-week-old fetuses can feel pain) flies in the face of all accredited scientific evidence. And all I could think about was September 7, 2007. It may seem strange to you. September 7, 2007 was almost 5 years ago. Why think about that now? And why such a specific date? September 7, 2007 was the night I was raped. September 7, 2007 was the night that my rapist's sperm met my egg and I was impregnated with the child of my rapist. I thought about all of this as I watched you passionately advocate on behalf of "the tiny little babies" and the only reaction I could muster was "how dare you." How dare you, Representative Franks. Your claim of caring about the "pain of the tiny babies" rings hollow when one remembers your support of the Ryan Budget, which would have slashed over $36 billion from food assistance programs. You called them "slush funds" and "runaway federal spending." This from a member of the House of Representatives, who makes more in a month than I do in a year. How dare you, Representative Franks. Your claim of caring about the "increased risk of suicide" among those who seek abortions rings hollow when, again and again, you have voted to strip people like me of health care by voting for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the slashing of Medicare and Medicaid. These programs that I, personally, rely on so that I can afford counseling to help me deal with the trauma of being raped. After all, "health care" involves your mental health as well. How dare you, Representative Franks. Your faux concern for the physical and mental well-being of parents and their children is sickening when you have over and over again proven your concern for both is nonexistent. What about the parents who would qualify for health care coverage under the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (HR 847)? Does their pain matter to you? Obviously not, since you voted against that bill. What about the pain and struggle of working-class families, many of whom are facing foreclosure? That obviously doesn't matter to you either, as you voted against both the Temporary Extension of Tax Relief (HR 4853) and Aiding Those Facing Foreclosure Act (HR 5510). What about the pain of immigrant families who are being torn apart by deportation? Their pain would have been at least partially alleviated by the DREAM Act (HR 5281), which you also voted against. And the list continues, Representative Franks. You have voted against extending unemployment benefits multiple times, against providing aid to states for, among other things, Medicaid and teacher employment, and against food safety and environmental protection regulations. And, to bring this letter full-circle, how dare you, Representative Franks. How dare you claim to care about pregnant people and the babies they are carrying when you voted to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the very organization that helped empower me to keep my baby. Because, you see, Representative Franks, after I found out I was carrying my rapist's child, I was scared - more scared than you could ever possibly fathom. Originally, I went to one of those "life-affirming" crisis pregnancy centers, as it was closer to me than a Planned Parenthood. It was there I was told that after I explained my situation, I was told that, face it, I would probably not make a good mother. After all, look at the "mess" I had gotten myself into. I was encouraged to "do the right thing" and give my baby to a couple who could "give it a better life" than I ever could. Why, I would have couples lining up at my door to adopt! After all, I was young and healthy and, most importantly, white. I ran from that center feeling more traumatized than the night I was raped. It wasn't until I took the hour bus ride to a Planned Parenthood that I was presented with the revolutionary option of carrying and raising my own child. I was given information about how to apply for runaway federal spending, er, excuse me, food stamps, TANF and Medicaid. I was asked if I had access to prenatal care, and, if not, did I know that I could get it right here? They gave me the information for a local rape crisis center that could connect me with counseling so I had some one to help me through the trauma that I had experienced. Yes, abortion was presented to me as an option, but it was in no way pushed on me. Abortion, adoption and parenting were all given equal credence. And, most importantly, I was told that Planned Parenthood would do their best to support me in whatever decision I made. In case you are wondering, Representative Franks, this is what caring for women and babies looks like. Caring for women and babies is presenting them with true, unbiased facts as part of comprehensive program that supports a person no matter the choice they make. Caring for women and babies is not forcing poor women (as 42 percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, and 27 percent have incomes between 100–199 percent of the federal poverty level) to have babies, and then providing them with no assistance feeding those babies, or making sure those babies are born and stay healthy. As Representative Quigley asked during the debate today, how can you, sitting in that sterile committee room, know what is best for a woman and her family? Or, to put a more personal touch to it, how can you - a white male, who will never have to worry about facing an unintended pregnancy and who is, I would assume, at the very least not struggling financially - know what is best for me - an unemployed rape survivor who has no idea if they will even have a roof over their head next month? The answer is you can't, Representative Franks, and that is why you must do your best to support all options a person could possibly make regarding an unintended pregnancy, even if you do not agree with it. If you cannot do this, Representative Franks, then, please, don't ever claim you "care" about me or my son or the millions of other families with situations like mine. Because, obviously, you don't. Sincerely, Bria Murray A note on sources: Representative Franks' voting record was provided by Project Vote Smart. All facts about induced abortion (both statistical and those related to health effects) were provided by the Guttmacher Institute. Fetal pain studies can be found in the Journal of American Medicine. Due to an editorial error, dates reported in this article earlier were incorrect. The current version includes all correct dates. We regret the error. Photo credit Gage Skidmore via the Creative Commons License.