The national outcry over a 10-year-old who got an abortion made its way to Congress on Thursday, when the head of one of the most prominent anti-abortion organizations in the country bizarrely claimed that such a procedure wouldn’t qualify as an abortion.
The nonsensical exchange took place in a House hearing, during California Rep. Eric Swalwell’s questioning of Catherine Glenn Foster, the head of Americans United for Life. Over the last decade, the powerful group championed a campaign to slash abortion access by writing model legislation for anti-abortion state lawmakers across the country.
“Would a 10-year-old choose to carry a baby?” Swalwell asked, in a clear reference to the account of a 10-year-old girl who was raped and forced to leave her home state of Ohio for an abortion. In Ohio, abortion is banned as early as six weeks into pregnancy and only permitted in cases of extreme medical emergency.
“I cannot—” Glenn Foster started to answer.
“Do you think a 10-year-old should choose to carry a baby?” Swalwell interrupted.
“I think it would probably impact her life and so it would fall under any exception and would not be an abortion,” Glenn Foster said.
“Wait, so it would not be an abortion if a 10-year-old, with her parents, made the decision not to have a baby that was a result of a rape?” Swalwell asked.
“If a 10-year-old became pregnant as a result of rape and it was threatening her life, then that’s not an abortion,” Glenn Foster said. “So it would not fall under any abortion restriction in our nation.”
Glenn Foster is correct in saying that if a 10-year-old’s life were threatened by a pregnancy, she could likely terminate the pregnancy. But she would still have to do it through a medical procedure—which is to say, an abortion.
Plus, in the case of the 10-year-old from Ohio, it seems that an exception for a medical emergency wasn’t enough to ensure that she could get an abortion in her home state, which doesn’t allow for abortions in cases of rape or incest. That’s why the child had to get her abortion in Indiana.
The Ohio story has caused an uproar in recent days, after President Joe Biden cited it in a speech about abortion rights while abortion opponents and conservative news outlets suggested that it wasn’t true. But on Tuesday, a man was arrested in the case after confessing to raping her at least twice; she was likely impregnated when she was just 9. Now, the Indiana attorney general wants to investigate the doctor who performed the child’s abortion.
For decades, abortion bans routinely included exceptions for victims of rape and incest. But in recent years, those exceptions have started to disappear, even though one 2018 Gallup poll found that most Americans supported abortion access in cases of rape or incest, even into the third trimester of pregnancy. (In fact, most Americans also supported Roe v. Wade.) Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, at least six states have some kind of enforceable abortion ban, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
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