hearts and minds

June 6, 2007

Compassion for the Victims of Sexual Assault

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality” – Dante Alighieri

The Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape Bill (SB129/AB377) before the Wisconsin legislature, would require any hospital in Wisconsin that provides emergency medical services to victims of rape or incest to provide such victims accurate unbiased information about emergency contraception. And if the victim requests, the hospital must provide immediate access to such treatment. Why is this Bill in trouble?

The bill defines “emergency contraception” as medical treatment (approved by the FDA) that prevents a pregnancy after sexual intercourse. It specifically excludes any treatment that is prescribed to terminate an existing pregnancy. The FDA, the AMA, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that emergency contraception will not induce an abortion in a pregnant woman. Nevertheless, no hospital will be required by this bill to provide emergency contraception to a victim who is already pregnant as indicated by test.

The average age of a rape victim is 15! Over 25,000 pregnancies result from rape in the U.S. every year. Emergency contraception could prevent approximately 22,000 of these pregnancies, and almost all of the 16,000 abortions that are a direct result of rape each year. Emergency contraception is recognized by the AMA as the professional standard of care for rape victims.

Over 80 percent of Wisconsin voters reported in a 2004 survey that they favored access to emergency contraception for rape victims. So what’s the problem? Are there one or two Wisconsin emergency care hospitals that haven’t yet heard of modern medicine, or are operated by the Taliban? Why is this bill even needed?

A 2006 survey revealed that 42 percent of Wisconsin hospitals do not offer emergency contraception to victims of rape, period. And only one out of three Wisconsin hospitals offers emergency contraception on site, without exception, to victims of rape.

The failure of so many hospitals to provide prompt care is especially a problem because time is a factor. If taken within 12 hours of a sexual assault, emergency contraception is 99.5% effective in preventing pregnancy. If taken within 72 hours, effectiveness is 75%. But the effectiveness drops to zero when the blastosphere attaches to the uterus.

Why are so many Wisconsin hospitals failing to provide this important treatment to mitigate and minimize and begin to heal the long-term effects of sexual assault on a victim’s life? The answer is, Pro-Life Wisconsin has decided it knows precisely when and where life begins, and is eager to claim the role of moral arbiter of the fate of others. Wisconsin Right-to Life “takes no position on SB-129” despite the fact that emergency contraception could prevent many thousands of abortions annually.

The controversy about Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape is extremely revealing. According to Wisconsin Pro-Life, “life” begins a little before a pregnancy begins. It does not begin with the living ova carried within a living woman’s body. It does not begin when she embarks upon her menses. It does not begin when ovulation drastically transforms an ovum and initiates it’s fateful journey into the fallopian tube. But (on the other hand) Pro-Life decrees that “life” did begin before the “…mulberry-like agglomeration of nucleated masses of protoplasm, termed vitelline spheres” becomes implanted on her uterine wall (Gray’s Anatomy).

Life, says Wisconsin Pro-Life, begins whenever a male “scores”. And a female has no right to say “no”, when and however he does, once he does.

Regardless of 21st Century biological and medical knowledge, and anything else, once that sperm gets into a female’s body, it suddenly becomes the sacred “right” of those happenstance couple of wandering cells to take over a large part of her body and the rest of her life. And that “right” means that the rape victim has no right, and can expect no help, to prevent a pregnancy from occurring. That’s what Pro-Life’s position against compassionate care for victims of rape boils down to. When life begins, and therefore whether a female has the right to control her own body, has nothing to do with the girl or woman, or all the many miraculous stages of life represented by female biology. That critical moment is determined by a single moment in male biology, according to this so-called “Pro-Life” ideology.

But the ideology that presumes to define when life begins is willfully ignorant of the fact that life is not that simple. Life does not begin in an isolated moment. Life is a continuum and a series of transformations. If life is to be properly and fully respected, as we wish and we must, then the continuum of life must be understood and cared for, not just certain individual expressions of life.

A crime victim’s rights should not depend on what hospital she finds herself at, or what practitioner happens to see her there. A very important aspect of healing the long-term injury of sexual assault is regaining a sense of control over her own body. And that process should include her unquestioned right to prevent a rape-caused pregnancy from happening.

Voting ”No” is a reprehensible, woman-hating position to take. It says that those licensed in the state to provide emergency medical services may deny knowledge and provision of safe, effective, standard emergency treatment to prevent a pregnancy from occurring to a girl or woman who has been raped.

Most men probably have difficulty comprehending and truly empathizing with either being pregnant, or with being a victim of rape … much less both, simultaneously. Yet most men grew up loving their mothers, falling in love with and marrying a woman, and having children of their own. Many fathers share the special magic and privilege (and fears) of raising a daughter. So despite the difficulty most men have gaining true comprehension of what it feels like to be a girl or a woman, most men (and women) have the instinct and enough empathy to place the common sense protection and well being of women and girls above knee-jerk allegiance to ideology and abstract definitions. That’s why this bill passed the Senate with such strong bipartisan support.

The State Senate approved the bill 27 to 6, with 60% of Republicans, and all Democrats voting for it. Glenn Grothman, Joe Liebham, Neal Kedzie, Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Lazich, and Daniel Kapanke, were the Wisconsin state senators who cast an appalling “No” vote. These six Senators’ votes and opinions against the Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape Bill cannot represent the will or the wishes of anything but a small minority of their constituents. Yet most of them may well run unopposed and unchallenged for re-election as state Senators.

It is interesting to note that 5 of the 6 Senate “No” votes came from five contiguous Senate districts (out of 33 total in the state) that encircle the city of Milwaukee, which finds itself captured in a kind of neo-con, religio-fundamentalist, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic halo of privilege and hubris.

Republican Assemblyman Terry Musser (who is not within this “halo of hubris”) sponsored and introduced the bill as AB 377 before the State Assembly. Now that the CCRV bill has been approved overwhelmingly in the state Senate, the Assembly Majority Leader Mike Huebsch (of LaCrosse County and Daniel Kapanke’s state Senate District) has intentionally assigned the bill to an irrelevant, unrelated committee chaired by wrong-wing ideologue Mark Gundrum (of New Berlin and Waukesha and Mary Lazich’s state Senate District). Gundrum has vowed to block this bill from ever getting a hearing in the Assembly “Judiciary” Committee he chairs, and thus to prevent it from getting an up-or-down vote in the state Assembly. Contact your Assemblyperson and urge her or him to co-sponsor AB 377 and get the bill assigned to a relevant committee (like “Family and Children” or “Public Health”) so Gundrum can’t single-handedly block a vote from occurring.

Although this bill obviously and understandably has very broad bi-partisan support, both in the public and in the legislature, it must be noted that all six state Senators who voted against SB129, the Majority Leader of the Assembly, and the state Assembly committee chairman who is threatening to kill AB 377 without allowing a vote, – all are members of the Wisconsin Republican Party. Also, Wisconsin should know that Assembly Majority Leader Huebsch and Judiciary Committee Chair Gundrum, both represent Assembly districts that are in one of the six (out of 33 total) Senate Districts that voted against this bill when it was approved by substantial majorities of both major parties in the state Senate.

Working class and rural Wisconsin is held hostage by these few ideologues, representing privileged suburban districts, unless we break their fanatical grip.

Are you curious where your legislator stands on this issue? View verbatim responses of Ozaukee County legislators to inquiries about this bill at:

Call the Legislative Hotline 1-800-362-9472 to contact your state legislators now.

For more information, see:
Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health
Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin
Pro-Choice Wisconsin


  1. WI Right to Life takes no position on SB 129.

    Sue Armacost
    Legislative Director

    Comment by Sue A — June 6, 2007 @ 8:47 pm | Reply

  2. Why not? Why wouldn’t a “right to life” organization take a position on counseling that could prevent abortions? That could preserve the physical and emotional health of women who already may have children to raise. That could help other women and girls who will be more likely to be physically and emotionally healthy to become mothers one day?

    To take no position on this issue is too transparent. Stand up now for children’s right to healthy mothers.

    Comment by Kay — June 7, 2007 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

  3. Well written and interesting. As a side note, someone has to run against Glenn Grothman…I am not surprised by his “no” vote.

    Comment by Marjie T — June 7, 2007 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

  4. Has anyone out there discussed the damage done to the woman’s body as a result of abortion? … Are there any legitimate studies done about this topic? I would be surprised if there are studies done- the MD is not going to report on damage done, because that would increase his number of lawsuits.-It is considered a medical procedure isn’t it?? IF anyone out there has had abortion, and is now infertile, or suffered horrific infections etc. have they thought about suing the MD’s or were they just happy to have someone take care or their “problem” ?

    Comment by Catherine — July 25, 2007 @ 10:22 am | Reply

  5. Catherine’s comment above asks an important question, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the subject of this article, or the bill (AB 377) that is currently stalled in the Wisconsin state Assembly Judiciary Committee. That’s because of a common misunderstanding of the actual text of the bill. Emergency contraception to prevent a pregnancy in the event of a criminal sexual assault is not abortion. Please read the actual bill (a link is provided in the text of the article above) and read the article again, with care.

    With regards to medical consequences of abortion on the pregnant female (a separate subject, brought up here by Catherine) it is well to consider and compare the medical consequences of illegal abortion, as opposed to the medical consequences of legal abortions, performed in hospitals by trained, licensed professionals.

    When abortion was illegal, that didn’t mean abortion was not performed. It meant that the well-to-do person determined on having an abortion took a trip to Monaco or the Mediterranean Coast or the Caribbean Islands, while the person of more limited means had no option but the back alley and a coat hanger. The ability of the wealthy to get a safe and competent abortion when and if they decide they need one, will never be restricted one iota if abortion is outlawed here. But the poor and the working class will find itself once again on the horns of a dangerous dilemma.

    AB 377, if it becomes law, will prevent many thousands of pregnancies that would otherwise result from criminal sexual assault. (Who, pray tell, other than a person woefully misinformed, or a complete nut, could object to that?) This bill is NOT about abortion (except to the significant extent that it will PREVENT many thousands of abortions to end pregnancies caused by rape and incest). This bill is about protecting and restoring the rights of victims of crime.

    Comment by clydewinter — July 25, 2007 @ 12:17 pm | Reply

  6. I testified in favor of SB 129 at the Senate public hearing and have worked for years on this issue. I was raped while living in Madison 35 years ago. I was informed about and provided emergency contraception in 1972 and wonder how we have gotten to such a misogynistic state to where this has been denied so often. And then I realized, as with so many issues, that if you aren’t paying attention, and the zealots and extremists are working away, that the most basic rights can be eroded while everyone else is not paying attention. Years ago, I did clinic protection in the Milwaukee area to escort women into clinics past the, at that time, anti-choice screamers, who said they were not opposed to birth control, but only to abortion. It became increasingly obvious, their ultimate goal was to eliminate all forms of birth control. That was a nearly impossible thing to get across to most people who were not involved in the issue.

    The opponents of this bill (AB377/SB129)come dangerously close to declaring that sperm are little people and that their desires to procreate must be paramount and protected in all situations. The ludicrous “constitutional concerns” brought up by the anti-choice, anti-woman Assemblyman Mark Gundrum, must be exposed for its egregious inanity. He is described as a “devout Catholic”. He can be a “devout” anything he wants. I have worked with devout Catholics who support birth control and the compassionate care that emergency contraception provides to victims of sexual assault. What Gundrum cannot do, is practice his interpretation of his religion on me or anyone else in the state. The fact that he is a devout misogynist is of more concern to me. He and his ilk must be voted out of office when their extremist views become the law of the land.

    Comment by Barb W — September 8, 2007 @ 10:14 am | Reply

  7. Thank you, Barb, for your contribution over the years, and for your valuable comment.

    Your use of the term “misogynist” is precisely on target. I too have employed that description to the fanatic ideology that drives the opposition to this bill. Elsewhere, I have written and said that the scientifically flawed assertion that life begins at the moment a sperm enters the ovum is a symptom of the ideology of male supremacy – but that the insistence that a victim of rape has no right to prevent a pregnancy from occurring once the male sperm has entered her body is nothing short of misogyny – the hatred of women and girls.

    I realize on reviewing my article after reading your comment that I failed to use the term misogyny in this essay, and I apologize for that. Accordingly, I have changed one important word in the paragraph near the end, which begins with the words “It is interesting …”. (That paragraph names and defines the “halo of privilege and hubris” that strangles and afflicts both rural and urban Wisconsin.)

    The legislative fate of AB 377 has continued to be another example of how this small group of self-righteous fanatic ideologues have distorted and thwarted the will, and the well-being, and the rights of the people.

    Take a closer look, with me, at the makeup of the Assembly Judiciary Committee (the inappropriate committee to which the Republican Majority Assembly Speaker and Oral Roberts University graduate Michael Huebsch assigned AB 377) and that committee’s undue ideological influence on legislation and public hearings.

    Of the ten current members of the Assembly Judiciary Committtee, SEVEN represent districts within that “halo of privilege and hubris” I described – districts representing affluent suburban areas surrounding the City of Milwaukee.

    Of the merely six (out of 33 total) state Senators who voted against SB 129/AB 377 when it passed overwhelmingly this spring, FIVE of those six Senators represent districts within that contiguous, throttling halo of privilege and hubris.

    That little bunch of outlying bedroom community ideologues is holding the great city centers as well as the rural expanses of Wisconsin hostage to their nonsense on many important issues – including Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault.

    It is interesting to note that in the 2006 general election, the two top ranking leaders of the (still) Republican majority Assembly lost their Assembly seats, and were replaced by Democrats. The next two ranking Republicans in the Assembly (Michael Huebsch and Jeff Fitzgerald) have now moved into the hot seats, and have been joined there by two other Republican Assemblymen. Mark well who those two are. Mark Gundrum is now the Assistant Majority Leader, and Mark Gottlieb is now the Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore.

    ALL FOUR top Republican “leaders” of the Republican controlled Wisconsin state Assembly now represent districts that just happen to be in the six state Senate Districts, captured by an ideological fringe, that voted against all the other 27 State Senate districts and against the Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape bill.

    ALL FOUR top leaders of our State Assembly, and SEVEN of the TEN Assembly Judiciary Committee members represent districts within the heart of the “halo of privilege and hubris”.

    Comment by clydewinter — September 9, 2007 @ 10:12 am | Reply

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