On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on S.B. 8, the Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks and has effectively overturned the protections of Roe v. Wade in the state.
The Republican Party has studiously avoided discussing the consequences of the ban, which contains no exceptions for rape or incest, apparently because they view it as a political loser. But at Thursday’s hearing, Republican House members called a witness who was willing to stand up for the law, Dr. Ingrid Skop, a Texas-based member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Speaking up in favor of the law means defending the provisions forcing some survivors of sexual assault and incest to carry fetuses to term. As committee members noted, the official position of recent Republican presidents from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump was to seek abortion bans except in the case of incest, rape, and danger to the life of the mother. That, however, is not S.B. 8.
You might think that as a Republican witness, Skop would oppose Texas’ provisions forcing assault survivors to carry fetuses to term, or at least avoid discussing the question as so many of the law’s supporters try to do. Instead, Skop repeated the ludicrous position of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that six weeks—or when most women might just be finding out they are pregnant—was enough time for a sexual assault survivor to get an abortion. Nobody in the hearing room was more disgusted by these remarks than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who ripped Skop’s “shameful” position to shreds in the most powerful moment of the entire hearing.
First, it’s important to have a sense of the exchange that led to Skop’s response. Specifically, under intense questioning from Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Skop would not say whether she would want her own daughter to have access to an abortion after six weeks in the horrific event that she were raped.
That exchange went in like this:
Raja Krishnamoorthi: Now my wife and I have a daughter, Dr. Skop, and one of our greatest fears in life is that she would be sexually assaulted or raped. Now I understand that you have a daughter, right?
Ingrid Skop: I do have a daughter.
Krishnamoorthi: If, God forbid, your daughter were raped, do you believe that your daughter should be forced to carry the fetus to term?
Skop: In the event—and I just want to say for the record that the stories that I heard from women today of their abortions make me very sad. I feel for every woman that has been through that horrendous situation and had to make that horrendous decision. I am working for a world where women do not ever have to address that decision, but I would say that in the case of a rape women generally know that they’ve been raped and a woman can find out if she is pregnant—
Krishnamoorthi: I’m just asking you a simple question, Dr. Skop, in the case even after a detectable fetal heartbeat, under S.B. 8, were your daughter raped, would you believe that she should be forced to carry the baby to term as required by S.B. 8?
Skop: S.B. 8 gives enough time for a woman who knows she’s been raped to determine that she is pregnant.
You can watch video of the full exchange here:
After Skop’s evasion on the specific personal question, Krishnamoorthi asked whether there should be an exception for rape and incest in the Texas law when none exists and when Abbott recently said he would oppose such a modification to the law. Skop was more precise in her answer, expanding on her position that two weeks after a missed period is enough time for a victim of sexual assault to get an abortion. Here’s that exchange:
Krishnamoorthi: You don’t want to answer the question, you’re being evasive and this is the hypocrisy which characterizes people like you having an opinion as to how you would treat your own daughter, but forcing other daughters, and sisters, and women in the state of Texas to go through a wholly entirely different experience. In 2019, the Texas Department of Safety reported more than 14,000 rapes in the state of Texas, and most experts believe unfortunately the actual number of rapes far surpasses the number of reported rapes. Now, ma’am, do you believe that after a fetal heartbeat is detected, there should be any exception for rape and incest?
Skop: I think there’s adequate time in this law for a woman who’s been raped to discover that she’s pregnant, and if she wants to terminate the pregnancy, I think that she has time to do it.
Again, this has been one of the most outrageous pieces of misinformation about S.B. 8 offered by the law’s mostly silent Republican advocates and here it was getting a hearing on a national stage in the House of Representatives. Ocasio-Cortez was, to say the least, not pleased. The New York congresswoman explained in precise detail—and using her own life as an example—why Skop’s statement was so anti-science, wrong, and damaging to survivors of sexual assault.
Here that response is printed in full:
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. 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. 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.
And by the way, people who commit abuse and victims and survivors of sexual assault are overwhelmingly assaulted by someone they know. And this myth that it’s some person lurking on a street or in a parking lot waiting to sexually assault you, that myth only benefits the abusers in power that want you to think that 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 that what 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 expecting me to know that I’m pregnant? Or the stress of a sexual assault. That makes you two weeks late for your period, whether you’re pregnant or not.
Unbelievable. Unbelievable that the Republican side would call a witness so irresponsible and hurtful to survivors across this country. Honestly. [Y]our constituents [deserve] an apology.
And here’s Ocasio-Cortez’s response in full:
Republican representatives on the committee spent much of the rest of the hearing trying to stand up for Skop and decry Krishnamoorthi’s question and Ocasio-Cortez’s clarifying factual statements as outrageous personal attacks. Notably, none actively tried to repeat and validate Skop’s statements that six weeks is enough time for a sexual assault survivor to realize she’s pregnant and get an abortion. While Skop at least had the decency to try to defend the law on its merits, once again, the Republicans legislators seemed to be aware of just how shameful and damaging S.B. 8 is in practice and that it’s better to avoid addressing the actual substance of the law in favor of pushing distracting partisan attacks.