Amendment 62 and Republican Ken Buck’s campaign for the United States Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet have come together to create the perfect storm for women’s rights advocates in Colorado. Activists, including rape victims who spoke to The Colorado Independent, have been galvanized against Buck for his early support of the “personhood” ballot initiative and for his opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.
“When someone is raped, their control is taken away. Rape is about control. If you take away a rape victim’s right to an abortion or even to emergency contraception, you are taking away still more control,” said Jennifer Eyl, an attorney and victims’ rights advocate.
“When you oppose abortion even in the case of rape and incest you are telling the victim that the violent crime committed against them is of less importance than the fact they got pregnant, and that is wrong,” Eyl said.
Bob Enyart, spokesperson for Colorado Right to Life, disagrees. “You don’t kill the child for the crimes of the father,” he said. “The rape is the terrible thing; not the baby. It is a cliche to think that a baby conceived in rape is a curse on the woman.”
He claims a substantial percentage of woman impregnated by rapists choose to carry the child to term and that the majority of those women keep the baby.
Enyart said that in the case of incest, the availability of abortions enables rapists to offend repeatedly and escape punishment.
Eyl acknowledged that some women choose to carry the children of rapes and incest. “It should be a choice. We don’t have the right to make that choice for them,” she said.
Amendment 62, the Personhood Amendment is considered a long-shot on November’s ballot. Buck first supported the ballot initiative, which would define a zygote as a “person” at the point of conception, but later backed off, saying he only supports the concept.
Bennet’s ads have been hammering Buck, the Weld County district attorney, for clearly stating he opposes abortion, even in the case of rape or incest, and an alleged victim of a rape claims that her handling of a past pregnancy seems to have colored Buck’s treatment of a five-year-old rape case he refused to prosecute.
Another victim, Emilie Ailts, 58, of Denver, was raped many years ago while on a blind date with someone she describes as “prominent, successful, someone you think of as safe.”
“When a woman is raped, a lot of things go through her head: anxiety, self-hatred, shame, fear. Your mind is crowded with emotions and it takes you awhile to sort through them all,” she said. “There is a period of denial, until you figure it out.”
“The more options we have to help us figure things out the better off we will be,” she continued. “You don’t want to take any of that woman’s options away. You have to give people everything they may need to be able to recover, and you may not know what that will be.”
Passing a law that would take away the rights of rape and incest victims to take a morning-after pill or to get an abortion is wrong, she says.
“People tell me, ‘don’t blame the child.’ Well, this is not about blaming the child; no one wants to blame the child. This is about offering women, victims, what they need — whatever they need — in order to recover,” Ailts said.
Ellen Dumm, executive director of The Campaign for a Strong Colorado, said, “It is hard for a man to understand that if you don’t have control over your body, it affects everything else.” She said she can barely imagine the trauma inherent in being forced to carry a rapist’s child.
“To have to relive that event, that act of violence, through the term of a very emotional pregnancy is unimaginable,” she said. “It is unbelievable to me that an elected official in the 21st century could advocate that as a policy. He has made it clear how little respect he has for women.”
“I don’t know how Ken Buck can think it is OK to force a rape victim to carry the child,” said one woman who was raped dozens if not hundreds of times between the ages of 4 and 12. “I don’t know how anyone can think that is OK. It is just too twisted.”
The Colorado Independent spoke with a number of victims about this issue. Most did not want their names used. One woman said that passage of Amendment 62 or passage of the complete abortion ban favored by Buck could have a devastating effect on anyone made pregnant by a rapist. (Buck’s campaign did not return several calls and emails requesting comment.)
Like Ailts, she said the first thing to understand is that even if the victim isn’t pregnant, she is suffering from tremendous trauma from the attack itself.
“To attempt to plan for the birth of a child conceived during that time would only add to that,” she said in an email. “It is without conscience that we would expect a woman to bear a child that was conceived under such horrible circumstances.”
“It would have killed me,” said a third woman. “I don’t see how it would be possible to go nine months with that constant reminder. It is appalling that anyone would insist that a woman do that. Ken Buck is out of his mind,” she said. “You’ve already gone through hell and then they tell you that you have to carry the baby.”
She said any child born in those circumstances would almost have to be given up for adoption. “Otherwise, what do you say when he asks about his daddy? Oh, your daddy is a rapist? He raped your mom.”