Abortions available to sodomized virgins only

S.D. state Sen. Bill Napoli describes in loving detail the circumstances under which a woman could qualify for an abortion in his state.

Published March 8, 2006 6:08AM (EST)

A Broadsheet reader forwarded the following excerpt from Friday's edition of "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," but I've been unsure of how to post it without actually vomiting. I think it's time to just bite the bullet.

During a segment about South Dakota's bill to ban most abortions, which offers no exceptions for cases of rape or incest unless the pregnant woman's life is in danger, state Sen. Bill Napoli (R) was asked if he could conceive of a scenario in which the exception might be invoked.

Indeed he could. "A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged," he said. "The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."

There are so many things to point out about this assertion, from the sticky sheen of fantasy clinging so repulsively to Napoli's imagined scenario, to his linked fetishizations of virginity and anal sex, to the basic notion that a unpure woman wouldn't suffer enough to get messed up by forced sex. And then there's just the phrase "sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it." I want to scrub my eyeballs with bleach in the hopes that I can erase the memory of having read those words coming from the mouth of an elected official.

The reader who forwarded these comments to Broadsheet could not give her name for professional reasons, but she's a native of South Dakota. Her response was more composed than anything I've been able to come up with.

"It makes me sad to think that the people I grew up around think that women who choose to have sex when they are not married, don't attend church with the regularity Sen. Napoli and others would wish, and are over a certain age would not be 'messed up, physically and psychologically' by rape," she wrote. She continued that she believes the prevailing philosophy in her home state is that rape victims are asking for it, and that "women are not supposed to enjoy sex and the real purpose of intercourse is procreation, so the ones who get pregnant when they don't want to be are sluts who should keep their legs together next time." She added that she and her boyfriend had been discussing a return to South Dakota to raise their family, but that despite her love for her state she is "thinking twice and three times about the wisdom of raising children in a place where women are so devalued."

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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