Dilemmas, Domestic Violence, Ethics, Gender, Social Care, Social Care Debate, Social Work, Social Work Debate

Rape and Abortion Rights… @SWSCmedia debate in collaboration with @NPSW

Women’s Equal Rights demonstration Florida Supreme Court – Courtesy of Florida State Archives (http://americanhistory.si.edu/)

This is the first of @SWSCMEDIA‘s U.S. Debate Series which will be run every Wednesday (8:00 PM ET / 3:00 PM PT) in collaboration with Network of Professional Social Workers (@NPSW).

Rape is the epitome of masculine domination and perhaps the utmost hegemonic expression of the patriarchal legacy.

Indeed, given its’ profound socio-cultural implications, the debate between the so called “Pro-Choice” and “Pro-Life” campaigners has raged on and has been instrumentalized, used and misused by different political parties and candidates. Therefore, although the US election row over this debate was to be expected, the recent pronouncements from Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) speaking of “legitimate rape” to Paul Ryan’s interview have been shocking and have set a new political low. It seems the heat of the ideological battle has vaporised any regard for women, political ethics, and human rights.

Last month, in an interview with KTVI-TV, the GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin was asked if he supported abortion in the case of rape. In response. he stated: “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.” He added “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.”

Following Akin’s statements, Paul Ryan in his interview with NBC deflects the question about whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, and in an interview with International Business times equates rape to other methods of conception.

Therefore, on Wednesday (Sept. 5) we’ll discuss the question of abortion rights in general, and pregnancy and abortion as a consequence of rape in particular.

Although there are abundant literature and research in this area ranging from the study of “Pregnancy following partner rape: What we know and what we need to know” to “The paradox of genocidal rape aimed at enforced pregnancy“, as observed by Boonstra (2007) and  Towey, Poggi & Roth (2005), women find it increasingly difficult to avail of Medicaid coverage for abortion as a consequence of rape.

So, join the debate and share your views on “Rape and Abortion Rights” on Wednesday (Sept. 5) at 8:00 PM ET / 5:00 PM PT @SWSCmedia.

Some Background Info.

When abortion first became legal in 1973, it was covered under Medicaid. Hence, like other medical procedures, women were able to avail of Medicaid funds for this purpose (Medicaid program covers health care for low-income individuals in the U.S.).

However, 1976 the Congressional passage of Hyde Amendment prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion care. At the time, during the floor debate Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL), sponsor of the bill stated: “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the HEW Medicaid bill.” (Emmens cited in Fried, 2007)

Since then, some exceptions to the ban have been made, and the current exceptions allow for the use of federal Medicaid funding for abortion if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy endangers the life of the pregnant woman (Guttmacher, 2011).

Considering that Medicaid is a joint-state program, states can use their own funds to expand Medicaid coverage, and 17 states currently do so. However, the majority of states (32 states) don’t allow the use of state funds for abortion except for cases that are included in the Hyde Amendment. Among these 3 states provide coverage in cases of foetal anomaly and 3 others in cases where mother’s physical health is in danger; for instance, South Dakota provides Medicaid coverage for abortion only when woman’s life is in danger (ibid).

In spite of the above there is increasing evidence that in practice, women find it very difficult to obtain Medicaid coverage even though they qualify under the Hyde Amendment (Dennis, Blanchard, & Cordova, 2011; Kacanek et al, 2010). Abortion providers attribute this difficulty to Medicaid staff’s lack of familiarity with policies about Medicaid coverage is the reason for the difficulty to obtain Medicaid coverage (Kacanek et al, 2010).

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will further impact the abortion debate, and Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation offers a good analysis of these changes in a document entitled “Federal Financing of Abortion and Reproductive Health Services: A Side-by-Side Analysis of Current Law and Proposed Federal Legislation”.

Join us & share your views about “Rape and Abortion” on Wednesday (Sept. 5) 8:00 PM ET / 5:00 PM PT @SWSCmedia,

This is the first of @SWSCMEDIA‘s U.S. Debate Series which will be run every Wednesday (8:00 PM ET / 3:00 PM PT) in collaboration with Network of Professional Social Workers (@NPSW).


Dennis, A., Blanchard, K., & Cordova, D. (2011) Strategies for securing funding for abortion under the Hyde Amendment: A multi-state study of abortion providers’ experiences managing Medicaid. American Journal of Public Health, 101, 2124–2129.

Emmens C. The Abortion Controversy. New York: Julian Messner, 1987. p. 68,  in Fried M. (2007) ‘Hyde Amendment: The opening wedge to abolish abortion

Guttmacher Institute. (2011) State policies in brief as of March 1, 2011: State funding of abortion under Medicaid. Accessed 02 September 2012. http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_SFAM.pdf

Kacanek, D., Dennis, A., Miller, K., & Blanchard, K. (2010) Medicaid funding for abortion: Providers’ experiences with cases involving rape, incest, and life endangerment. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 42, 79–86.


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