(AP/Beck Diefenbach)

Tennessee GOPer opposes exemptions to antiabortion law because rape & incest claims are "not verifiable"

Rep. Sheila Butt argued that mental health exceptions for survivors are just "a loophole for the abortion industry"


Jenny Kutner
April 23, 2015 8:50PM (UTC)

A Tennessee GOP lawmaker whose real name is Sheila Butt pushed to make it even more difficult for survivors of rape and incest to access abortion care this week, because she feels there's a significant chance they're lying about being assaulted.

According to Butt -- whose last name I wouldn't be so inclined to highlight or make fun of if she weren't behaving like such a butt -- women's claims of sexual abuse are "not verifiable," and therefore should not merit exemptions from antiabortion bill HB 977. The measure would implement a 48-hour waiting period and require counseling before an abortion, for which Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D) proposed an exemption for victims of rape or incest.

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Butt, however, challenged the amendment, suggesting pregnant survivors are lying in order to game the system and access a totally legal medical procedure without facing unnecessary hurdles. Via Wonkette:

This amendment appears political because we understand that in most instances, this is not verifiable. Let’s make sure these women have the information and the understanding to act.

Fitzhugh, offering up the completely out-of-this-world counterpoint that women are actually able to comprehend both the magnitude of deciding to terminate a pregnancy and the gravity of rape and incest, responded:

I just don't think women take something like rape or incest lightly. And I can't imagine any person would take advantage of that type of situation. Fortunately or unfortunately, it may not happen much. But it is certainly a condition that women need to be protected from, and that we should not give them a more burdensome process because their pregnancy is a result of one of these two actions.

Alas, Butt could not be swayed. She, along with a majority of the other butts in the House, voted to table Fitzhugh's amendment -- and it wasn't the only one Butt opposed! Earlier, the GOP representative also challenged another of Fitzhugh's amendments, which would allow doctors to exempt patients from the 48-hour waiting period for mental health reasons. Once again, her reasoning was very sound.

"Putting this psychological harm bypass into the bill is really a loophole for the abortion industry," Butt said. "It allows someone who is going to profit from abortion to get the waiting period waived."

Ah yes, all those abortion providers who face personal harassment, death threats and very real concerns about the safety of their families, are definitely in the reproductive healthcare industry for the money. It has nothing to do with a desire to meet a growing need for care, which only increases when legislators pass measures such as HB 977 and restrict abortion access even further, nor is it at all an outgrowth of providers' concern for women's health. Nope, abortion care is all about the Benjamins!

The Tennessee legislature, which was effectively given a free pass to enact as many abortion restrictions as it wants thanks to a ballot initiative denying the existence of any right to the procedure in the state constitution, voted in favor of the waiting period measure, which Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign.

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Jenny Kutner

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