Many people and politicians who oppose abortion propose to ban the practice but make exceptions for cases of sexual assault. Under such a regime, anyone could claim to be sexually assaulted and thus demand a legal abortion. On one hand, the legal system could believe all victims and functionally legalize abortion for anyone willing to lie (and people who think abortion restrictions are immoral and tyrannical would presumably have no moral compunctions about doing so). On the other hand, the legal system could require evidence of assault. Given the time between usually unreported assaults and the time when a woman learns she is pregnant, any evidence could be difficult to come by. Depending on the degree to which evidence is accepted, restrictions could range from making the exception trivially easy to falsify to making the exception almost never usable and attempting to invoke it would be deeply traumatic for real victims.

How do proponents of abortion bans, except for instances of sexual assault, propose to restrict access to real assaults?

Note: Many anti-abortion folks believe that life begins at conception and thus any abortion is unconscionable, even in cases of assault. I'm not asking about their views or policy prescriptions. Similarly, many pro-abortion folks think life begins some time after conception and think restrictions on abortion violate bodily autonomy for no compelling reason and is thus unconscionable. They almost certainly support easy access to exceptions as a way to strengthen abortion rights. I'm similarly not asking about their views or policy prescriptions.

  • 8
    Now, I could be wrong about the masses here, but anecdotally, people I talk to don't really care about the mechanism, because they generally would like to ban it all. They may accept the assault exception because it's politically expedient, but I don't think they'd have any issue with it being very difficult to actually obtain the exemption.
    – Geobits
    May 16, 2019 at 16:40
  • I feel like the title needs some editing to avoid potential confusion. The title could be read as people trying to get access to sexual assault.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 17, 2019 at 1:10
  • @obie2.0 feel free to edit for clarity
    – lazarusL
    May 17, 2019 at 10:08
  • why can't they just require a police report? They don't care about un-reported assaults...
    – dandavis
    May 17, 2019 at 19:24
  • 1
    Filing a false police report is already another crime, with it's own consequences.
    – dandavis
    May 17, 2019 at 19:39

2 Answers 2


While I agree, those who propose abortion bans, don't think about the consequences of such bans, they may not have to. The U.S. DOJ, Office on Violence Against Women, provides assistance and training to police for Understanding, Investigating, and Responding to Sexual Assault.

Because sexual assault is a crime, as soon as a woman claims sexual assault as a reason for getting an abortion, the police will be called, an investigation begun, social workers involved, etc.

Assuming an actual assault and sensitive, trained assistance, the woman will more likely respond favorably.

Assuming a mere claim, just to get an abortion, the woman will have to claim forgetfulness, fabricate a story, or, simply, be uncooperative. Investigators are trained to recognize patterns that may reveal false statements. Thus the claim could quickly unravel, exposing the ruse.

Depending on how the law is written, and because it is a law, it may be necessary for the investigator to go before a Magistrate or Judge to present evidence for an official approval of the abortion.

Note: I am not a lawyer, the above is based on my decades of life experience.


On the other hand, the legal system could require evidence of assault. Given the time between usually unreported assaults and the time when a woman learns she is pregnant, any evidence could be difficult to come by.

Highlighting is my own. Wanted to point out that the problem here is that the claim of difficulty in procuring evidence is wrong. Forensics science revolves around the golden rule known as Loccard's Exchange Principal, which holds that any time two things interact with one another, they will exchange elements of the interaction, no matter how small or fleeting, and without these exchanged elements, we must assume that the exchange never occurred.

A Pregnant woman who is seeking a Sexual Assault Abortion will usually have some evidence of the assault occurring. There are many terms for the most common type of evidence found, but for simplicity's sake, lets call this evidence the BABY that is inside of her.

Again, as you asked, I will not for the purposes this answer, discuss when it can be defined as human or has obtained personhood and nothing here should be construed as doing so. However, there is no documented medical evidence of a pregnancy that did not involve a male human. Everyone has come to the realization that, sexaul reproduction means that your parents had sex at least 1 time in their life time... and you're the evidence of that.

Having children is genetic: If your parents did not have kids, you aren't likely to be having children either. So the fact that a woman is pregnant means that there is enough genetic material of the fathers that still exists inside of her. The child is going to have a 50% identical match to exactly one male, which is good enough to go find the guy and ask a few question about the night they got together as well as search for eyewitnesses and ask people who are looking. It's pretty easy to find the man who is the daddy, since we have the baby and thus half of his DNA. Even if a genetic match is not 100%, we are able to tell how distantly two people by DNA... such that a match of 0.01% will likely be a 6th cousin. In a large familial extension, out to sixth cousin it's likely that a stronger match is going to be found as the chances that a person with a criminal record or having a career in teaching, law enforcement or military are likely to be identified in a CODIS system. Even submitting to DNA family tree company could trigger a CODIS hit, as they do share DNA sampling with law enforcement. It's not an uncommon news story to hear of a cold case being solved because a DNA family tree company submitted DNA that matched with an unidentified suspect DNA sample added by investigators. (Fun fact: At least 1/4 of all people on Earth are genetically related to Ghengis Khan and only one President of the United States, Martin Van Buran, was not a direct descendant of Prince John of England... the same one Robin Hood fights. Even then, that's direct descendants. Van Buran still counts an ancestor of Prince John among his relatives, meaning all U.S. Presidents, even Obama, have a connection to the British Monarchy... and we know this because DNA).

Since a parent and child have 50% of DNA in common, it's pretty easy to find the dad in such a case.

Furthermore, as none of the abortions in these laws criminlize the mother for getting an illicit abortion, the standard of proof could be considerably lower than Beyond Reasonable Doubt. Again, for academic purposes, I will not discuss how low, but stating that this standard is only used in criminal cases and thus we don't happen to be absolutely certain she's telling the truth, but probably mostly certain.

  • 8
    "If your parents didn't have kids, you aren't likely to have children either" - well, if your parents didn't have kids, then you don't exist.
    – gnasher729
    May 16, 2019 at 21:19
  • 10
    The question concerns proposed laws that would ban abortion except in the case of rape. You discuss how you'd find out who the father is, but not how the state would determine whether or not the conception was caused by rape, and thus eligible for this exception.
    – divibisan
    May 16, 2019 at 22:14
  • @gnasher729: That is of course the joke.
    – hszmv
    May 20, 2019 at 13:24
  • @divibisan: Well, knowing who the father is could be a very important step in confirming the rape allegation. I did not go into specifics beyond that because of the idiosyncratic nature of an individual case in determining any standards. In some cases, it could be fairly easy to determine, but in others, it could be much more difficult in making a determination.
    – hszmv
    May 20, 2019 at 13:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .