Another Republican lawmaker has waded into the debate over abortion access for rape victims, saying that abortion bans shouldn’t have exceptions for women who became pregnant from sexual assault because “what is beautiful is the child that could come from this.”
West Virginia Del. Brian Kurcaba (R) made the comments — which were first reported by Charleston Gazette staffer David Gutman — during a public hearing on Thursday. A health committee in the legislature was debating a proposed 20-week abortion ban. Kurcaba was explaining why he opposed a Democratic-sponsored amendment to add an exception for rape victims.
“Obviously rape is awful,” Kurcaba said. “What is beautiful is the child that could come from this.”
Kurbaca’s statement echoes other controversial comments from GOP politicians along the same lines. In 2012, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said that abortion bills should not include rape exceptions because pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from God.” Mourdock lost his election, as did several other Republicans who waded into the issue of sexual assault and abortion access during their campaigns that year.
Since then, political consultants have attempted to train GOP lawmakers about how to more sensitively talk about rape. In 2013, the National Republican Congressional Committee sat down with candidates to coach them about what to avoid, especially in races against female opponents.
Nonetheless, it’s continued to be a sticking point for the party. This controversy recently played out on the national stage when the U.S. House of Representatives split over the rape exception included in their own version of a 20-week abortion ban.
Last month, the House hoped to approve a 20-week ban on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That measure included a narrow exception for rape victims that required them to report their assault to the police, even though the majority of rapes are not officially reported. Several female congresswomen raised concerns about the language of the rape provision, and House leaders ended up canceling the vote at the last minute. The thousands of abortion opponents who traveled to the nation’s capital for the annual March for Life — many of whom favor abortion restrictions without any type of rape exception — were upset about the retreat.
West Virginia lawmakers didn’t back down in the same way. On Thursday, the House Health Committee ended up approving the 20-week abortion ban and rejecting the amendment that would have added a rape exception. The proposed bill does include some exceptions for fatal fetal defects and health emergencies.
The abortion ban currently advancing in West Virginia is very similar to a bill that was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) last year. At the time, the governor — who has a record of opposing abortion — said he couldn’t approve the measure because of concerns that it violates Roe v. Wade. Although he has indicated he will make the same decision again this year, the legislature now has enough Republicans to potentially override his veto.
Social workers, medical groups, doctors, and the American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the proposed 20-week ban on Thursday. They said it’s unconstitutional, and goes too far to interfere into the doctor-patient relationship.
In addition to West Virginia, two other states — Virginia and South Carolina — have introduced 20-week abortion bans this session. This type of restriction, which is typically based on the scientifically inaccurate theory that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks, has been very successful on the state level. Later abortion bans became particularly prevalent in 2013, when ten states moved to enact 20-week bans, and are currently on the books in 14 different states.