News & Politics

Dem. Rep. Falsely Claims Alabama Has Harsher Penalties for 'Having an Abortion' Than for Rape

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Rayburn Building. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

On Wednesday morning, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) slammed Alabama’s new abortion law, uttering a grotesque lie about the pro-life law. She said that a woman who gets an abortion would be given a harsher sentence than a rapist, under the new law.

“I want to offer a thought about Alabama in particular,” Porter said at the Center for American Progress (CAP) Ideas Conference in Washington, D.C. “Under this new law, the penalty — the criminal penalty — for raping somebody is lower than the criminal penalty for having an abortion.”

“So that tells you something about how these lawmakers think about women’s bodies and the control of women’s bodies, when they think that being violated sexually is a lesser offense compared to making the choice not to bring a new life into this country when you are not capable, able, ready, or willing to do so,” she argued.

Porter claimed that Alabama legislators have no idea what it is like to be a mother. “And I think that just reflects that there is a deep, deep lack of understanding of what it means to be a mother, the responsibility that comes with being a mother, the weight that you carry financially, socially, economically, all of it. The way that it affects your professional life, the way that it affects your family dynamic, your marriage. All of these things are incredibly important and incredibly personal decisions,” she said.

In conclusion, the congresswoman declared, to applause, “Our government has no business deciding my most intimate moments.”

This was strong rhetoric, but Porter is entirely wrong about the bill and about what it means.

In fact, H.B. 314, the Human Life Protection Act, does not penalize the woman getting an abortion, but rather the abortionist who kills the life inside her. The law could not be clearer on this fact. The law intends “to provide that a woman who receives an abortion will not be held criminally culpable or civilly liable for receiving the abortion.”

The law states that “No woman upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted to be performed shall be criminally or civilly liable. Furthermore, no physician confirming the serious health risk to the child’s mother shall be criminally or civilly liable for those actions.”

The Alabama law makes abortion a Class A felony for the abortionist, and attempted abortion a Class C felony for the abortionist.

Outlets like Rolling Stone have lied about what this means. The magazine rightly noted that Class A felonies carry a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison.

Rolling Stone goes on to note that incest and sexual abuse are considered Class C felonies, with a minimum sentence of one year and one day in prison and a maximum sentence of 10 years. Second-degree rape — which applies to “what most people usually consider statutory rape,” according to a Huntsville, Ala., lawyer — is a Class B felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Rolling Stone noted that “if HB 314 is enacted, a first-time offender who is accused of raping, say, an intellectually disabled woman or a 13-year-old girl could potentially serve less prison time than a doctor providing an abortion.” This is technically true, but the magazine ran the headline, “How States Like Alabama Protect Rapists Over Women and Girls.”

This gives the false impression that all forms of rape are considered lesser crimes than abortion under Alabama law. On the contrary, first-degree rape is a Class A felony, the same as sexual torture and intentional abortion.

Statutory rape is a serious matter, but it is false to claim — as Rep. Katie Porter did — that “the penalty — the criminal penalty — for raping somebody is lower than the criminal penalty for having an abortion.” In fact, the criminal penalty for first-degree rape is just as high as the criminal penalty for an abortionist carrying out the act of killing an unborn baby, and the criminal penalty for the woman undergoing the procedure is zero.

Furthermore, Porter’s claim that Alabama lawmakers have “a deep, deep lack of understanding of what it means to be a mother” is extremely offensive. The woman who sponsored H.B. 314, State Rep. Terri Collins, is a mother with three children.

Porter also declared, “Our government has no business deciding my most intimate moments.” This statement displays intentional ignorance about the pro-life position.

Pro-life Americans do not want to decide anyone’s “most intimate moments.” Instead, they want to protect the unborn babies who are the natural result of the “most intimate moments” between a man and a woman. From the moment of conception, these babies have unique human DNA. After a few weeks, they have detectable heartbeats.

What Rep. Porter and others do in the privacy of their own homes is no concern of the government. But when a man and a woman bring a new person into the world, pro-life Americans believe that person deserves the same rights as any other person, including the right to life. There are exceptions, of course — if the woman’s life is in danger, abortion is acceptable. The Alabama law also includes exceptions for ectopic pregnancy and fatal fetal abnormalities. Some argue for exceptions based on rape and incest.

The debate over just how much protection the government should give to the unborn is one very much worth having. But the claim that protecting the unborn amounts to government “deciding my most intimate moments” is a disgusting red herring.

Finally, the rejection of personhood applied to unborn babies also helps explain the outrage when pro-abortion activists like Katie Porter hear that statutory rape will be punished less severely than killing an unborn child. These people do not consider the unborn child to be human, so intentionally killing it is not at all comparable to murder. Yet to pro-life Americans seeking to defend the most vulnerable humans among us, intentionally killing an unborn child is either murder or akin to it. Therefore, making it a Class A felony makes sense.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.