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Texas Governor Greg Abbott Makes It Clear He Has No Idea How Menstrual Cycles Work

Gov. Greg Abbott at press conference.

**Content warning: discussion of rape**

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has done a terrible job of defending his state’s (completely indefensible) extreme new abortion ban. At a press conference Tuesday, he was asked why the law doesn’t have an exemption for people who become pregnant via rape or incest. His answer is terrible.

Abbott says there’s no need for an exemption even in those circumstances because “obviously,” the law “provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”

In actuality, the law does not provide “at least” six weeks to obtain an abortion. It bans abortion after the detection of embryonic cardiac activity–what anti-abortion advocates have been woefully successful at falsely branding a “heartbeat.” That usually happens around the 41-43 day mark.

Abbott’s insistence that this is more than enough time to still get an abortion indicates he has an entirely inaccurate understanding of pregnancy and menstrual cycles. He should be embarrassed to have wielded his extreme ignorance so publicly but, of course, we know he won’t be.

Most people don’t even know they’re pregnant by the six-week mark—which is measured from the first day of their last period. As most people who have periods know, those cycles do not operate like clockwork. A “normal” cycle can vary by up to about a week or more and additionally, studies have shown that about 14% of menstruating people have irregular cycles.

Meaning if your period was a week late, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t even notice, and if another week went by before you thought to maybe take a pregnancy test, by that point, you’re likely already at or past the six-week cut off for Texas’ abortion ban.

And that’s not even taking into account the numerous obstacles Texas and other states have put in your way to obtain an abortion once you do know you’re pregnant. It’s not like you can just walk into a clinic and get a same-day appointment. First, there are more than 200 crisis pregnancy centers in Texas (more than any other state) trying to lure pregnant people in to give them fear-based disinformation and convince/trick them into staying pregnant.

Pregnant people in Texas are required to take two trips to an abortion provider with a 24-hour waiting period in between. That waiting period can be waived if the person lives more than 100 miles from the clinic (in a state where the average distance a person has to travel to reach one of the state’s approximately 20 abortion providers is about 248 miles) but it’s still a time-consuming and potentially expensive process.

Given that about half of people who get an abortion live in poverty, the idea that a person can drop everything on a moment’s notice and coordinate not just the appointments themselves but coverage at work, childcare, transportation, out of town lodging, and everything else required (including getting together the money for the actual procedure or medication), all while rushing to get in under the six-week mark if they haven’t already missed it, is completely unrealistic.

Texans seeking abortions are now flooding clinics in neighboring states, although that option is still logistically unavailable to many people, especially poor people, people of color, and immigrants.

Amazingly, this public announcement that he has no idea how human bodies work wasn’t even the worst thing Abbott said. After insisting six weeks was plenty of time to obtain an abortion, Abbott immediately followed up that sentiment by saying that people who became pregnant via rape don’t need an exemption because Texas is just going to, you know, “eliminate” rape.

“Let’s make something very clear,” Abbott said. “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.”

Despite the fact that all the men standing behind Abbott thought that statement was applause-worthy, it’s just nonsense.

First of all, if it’s that easy to get rapists “off the streets” (wording that already doesn’t account for the fact that most rapes are committed by someone the victim already knows), then why haven’t they done that already?

Is Abbott going to do anything to make it easier for victims of rape to report their assault? Does he know that only about 1% of sexual assaults in the U.S. end in conviction? Will he clear the state’s enormous backlog of untested rape kits? And how does arresting a rapist do anything to help their victim who is now ineligible for an abortion thanks to the state’s draconian ban?

Seriously, we want specifics. What exactly is Abbott going to do to “eliminate all rapists”?

Abbott made these comments the same day he signed a sweeping law restricting the voting rights of Texas voters–the same law state Democrats fled to prevent from passing. It really was a big day for him in terms of screwing over Texans.

(image: Montinique Monroe/Getty)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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