Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) stepped in to correct Republican legislators who argued Thursday that Texas’ new, highly restrictive abortion law doesn’t force women who have been raped to carry their pregnancies to term because they would know they’re pregnant before the law’s six-week cutoff.
The argument belies a fundamental misunderstanding about female anatomy — and the trauma of sexual assault. As she has had to do many times in the past, Ocasio-Cortez addressed the ignorance of her peers head-on.
“Once again we’re in a room of legislators who are attempting to legislate reproductive systems that they know nothing about,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a congressional hearing about the new law.
A person is considered six weeks pregnant when their period is just two weeks late, she noted. And a woman can miss or be late for their period for many reasons, including due to the stress of being sexually assaulted — once a survivor has even been able to come to terms with the fact that they have been assaulted.
“When you are raped, you don’t always know what happened to you,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I speak about this as a survivor. ... You are in so much shock at what happened to you, sometimes it takes years to realize what actually went on.”
She went on to say that her period could be inconsistent due to her weight as well, and that it was unrealistic for women to know they’re pregnant within that six-week window.
“You look at me funny, I’m two weeks late for my period. And you’re supposed to expect me to know that I’m pregnant?” she said. “Or the stress of a sexual assault — that makes you two weeks late for your period, whether you’re pregnant or not.”
Ocasio-Cortez also pointed out that rapes are “overwhelmingly” committed by someone the victim knows, even though some legislators would lead you to believe otherwise.
“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,” she said, peering around the room. “It’s your friend. It’s a boyfriend. It’s a boss. It’s a legislator.”
Watch the exchange here:
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.