Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday defended a new state law that eliminates all abortions after six weeks — including those from pregnancies resulting from rape — by pledging to "eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas."
The controversial law took effect last week after the Supreme Court chose not to block it while courts sorted through its legality. It bans all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur just two weeks after a missed menstrual period — before many women know they are pregnant.
The new law does not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
On Tuesday, reporters asked Abbott why a rape or incest victim should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.
Abbott argued that the law did not require a woman to give birth, citing the fact that abortions are still permitted before fetal heartbeats are detected.
He then pledged to crack down on rapists as a means to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
"Let's make something very clear. Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets," Abbott said. "Goal No. 1 in the state of Texas is to eliminate rape, so that no woman, no person, will be the victim of rape."
Abbott's comments attracted criticism from opponents of the law, including Amy Jones, the CEO of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center.
"Certainly it is in our mission statement to work to end sexual violence, that is why we exist, but we are also very aware that that is an aspirational goal that yes, we do believe that this is a preventable crime, but it if it were that easy, rape would no longer exist," Jones told the Associated Press.
During an appearance on CNN Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said she found Abbott's comments "disgusting," arguing that often, the legal system isn't equipped to handle the intricacies of every rape case.
"These aren't just predators walking around the streets at night. They are people's uncles, they are teachers, they are family friends," Ocasio-Cortez told CNN. "When something like that happens, it takes a very long time, first of all, for any victim to come forward. And second of all, when a victim comes forward, they don't necessarily want to bring their case into the incarceral system. They don't want to re-traumatize themselves by going to court."
The Department of Justice has found that most rapes go unreported to police, and a 2019 survey found that 1 in 3 victims reported that they were raped or sexually assaulted.