The week in women’s rights: States are attempting to modify their definitions of rape and sex.

The Week In Women’s Rights: States Are Attempting to Modify Their Definitions of Rape and Sex

The Week In Women’s Rights: States Are Attempting to Modify Their Definitions of Rape and Sex

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
April 21 2017 5:42 PM

States Are Attempting to Modify Their Definitions of Rape and Sex: The Week In Women’s Rights

Just what is going on in Texas this week?

Tamir Kalifa/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, Maryland seemed poised to finally pass a law, as most states have, that would keep men from claiming parental rights to the babies of the women they raped. The bill passed both chambers of the state legislature unanimously—then died on the last day of the legislative session when a committee of six male legislators couldn’t agree on last-minute wording changes. Since the law would have affected custody battles in civil courts, not criminal ones, “the disagreements came down to how best to protect the rights of men not convicted of crimes,” the New York Times reported.

Christina Cauterucci Christina Cauterucci

Christina Cauterucci is a Slate staff writer.

While lawmakers in Maryland fretted about men, other state legislatures have been worrying themselves with women. On Tuesday, the Iowa state Senate passed a 20-week abortion ban that was already approved by the House, sending the bill to Gov. Terry Branstad for his likely signature. The bill, which makes no exceptions for rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities, would also require women to wait 72 hours between her initial appointment and her abortion, a provision one Republican senator said “may save a few lives.”


A 20-week abortion ban also advanced this week in the state senate of Tennessee, where state officials recently announced that they would no longer enforce a pair of anti-abortion laws similar to Texas measures struck down last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. A Missouri judge blocked two comparable laws—one that required abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges and one that required abortion clinics to make their facilities into surgical centers—in a preliminary injunction on Wednesday. This is a huge deal for the state, where there is only one operating abortion-providing facility. Rewire reports that Planned Parenthood will now be able to extend abortion services to four additional locations.

Alabama legislators are readying the state for a complete abortion shutdown in the event that the Supreme Court ever overturns Roe v. Wade. The state Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would add “right to life” language to the state constitution, making abortion illegal if Roe falls. That bill, which would trigger a voter referendum, will go to the House for further debate and a vote. The Senate also approved a bill, now going to the governor, that would allow a doctor to deny medical services to anyone if she says it violates her “conscience.”

Some good things also happened this week: If Gov. John Hickenlooper signs a bill the Colorado state Senate passed on Monday, Colorado women will be able to get a year’s worth of oral contraceptives at a time, making it much easier for rural women (or just busy ones) to stay on top of a medication that depends on precise timing. (Women in the state can already get birth control prescribed straight from a pharmacist instead of a physician.) And in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill on Tuesday that modifies the state’s definition of rape so that perpetrators can be prosecuted even if their victims don’t physically fight back. The bill was proposed after a BuzzFeed investigation found that the Baltimore County Police Department routinely filed rape reports as “unfounded” if the alleged rapist didn’t appear to use “force or the threat of force” in his attack.

Texas became the weirdest state in women’s rights this week when Republican legislators took a perfectly normal bill regulating ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber and added an amendment defining sex as the “physical condition of being male or female.” One of the men who added the amendment said it was meant to clarify a part of the bill that prohibits companies from discriminating on the basis of sex, among other protected characteristics. Now, instead of sex-discriminating based on the photo in a rider’s user profile, drivers will have to get a doctor’s note explaining the genital state of the rider before deciding whether or not to discriminate.