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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez schools Texas abortion law defender on reproductive health

"When you are raped, you don't always know what happened to you. And I speak about this as a survivor. You are in so much shock."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez schools Texas abortion law defender on reproductive health
Cover Image Source: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Capitol Hill on September 21, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

During a congressional hearing about Texas' controversial abortion ban last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) stepped in to fact check a witness who claimed that the bill doesn't force survivors of rape into carrying a pregnancy to term. Ingrid Skop — a Texas-based doctor and a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists — argued at the hearing that the law's six-week mark provides enough time for survivors to determine if a pregnancy resulted from an instance of sexual assault. Addressing the House Oversight and Reform Committee after Skop's testimony on September 30, a visibly irritated AOC pointed out two fundamental factors ignored by Skop's argument: the trauma of sexual assault and the female anatomy.

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"I need to correct and address an assertion that was made not too long ago, this idea, this myth that, first of all, that this law S.B. 8 provides ample time for a victim of abuse to seek abortion care. Because once again we're in a room of legislators who are attempting to legislate reproductive systems that they know nothing about," Ocasio-Cortez began, referencing the Republican lawmakers on the committee, most of whom are cisgender men. "Six weeks pregnant—and it's shameful that this education needs to happen because this conversation shouldn't even be held in a legislative body—six weeks pregnant is two weeks late for one's period."

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The congresswoman, who earlier this year opened up about previously being sexually assaulted, went on to explain that the stress of being sexually assaulted — among other things — could play a role in the individual missing or being late for their period. "When you are raped, you don't always know what happened to you. And I speak about this as a survivor. You are in so much shock," she said, before emphasizing that rapes are "overwhelmingly" committed by someone the victim knows.

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"This myth that it's some person lurking on a street or in a parking lot waiting to sexually assault you," Ocasio-Cortez continued. "That myth only benefits the abusers in power who want you to think that's how it happens. It's your friend. It's a boyfriend. It's a boss. It's a legislator. You are in so much shock at what’s happened to you, sometimes it takes years to realize what actually went on. So this idea, that victims know, in the two weeks that they might be late for their period... I'm a buck 15. I'm 115 pounds. You look at me funny, I'm two weeks late for my period. And you're supposed to expect me to know I'm pregnant?"

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"Unbelievable! Unbelievable that the Republican side would call a witness so irresponsible and hurtful to survivors across this country," AOC added. "[Y]our constituents [deserve] an apology." Sharing a video of her blistering fact check to Twitter, the congresswoman wrote: "The same kind of abuse culture & misogynistic culture that allows for abusers to cause harm inside their homes is the same abuse that informs Texas' anti-abortion law. It's the same abuse we see that has persisted for centuries. And it's time to end it."

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According to The Guardian, representatives Cori Bush of Missouri, Barbara Lee of California, and Pramila Jayapal of Washington also testified during the committee hearing Thursday. "To all the Black women and girls who have had abortions and will have abortions, we have nothing to be ashamed of," said Bush during the hearing. "We live in a society that has failed to legislate love and justice for us, so we deserve better. We demand better. We are worthy of better. That's why I'm here to tell my story. So today I sit before you as that nurse, as that pastor, as that activist, that survivor, that single mom, that Congresswoman, to testify that in the summer of 1994, I was raped, I became pregnant, and I chose to have an abortion." The live-streamed hearing is available to watch in full on YouTube.

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