HARRISONVILLE, Mo. - The author of a controversial bill, which would require written and notarized consent from the father of an unborn child for a woman to obtain an abortion, defended his proposal as a defense of life and the rights of fathers in an interview Thursday.
Rep. Rick Brattin filed House Bill 131 in early December for next January’s legislative session. The bill drew national attention after Brattin defended it to Mother Jones magazine and invoked the now infamous phrase “legitimate rape” in discussing the bill’s exemption for victims of rape and incest.
“It took two to come together and create a child, and right now the way it is the woman gets the full say and the father gets no say, and I think that that needs to change,” Brattin, a Republican and a father of five, told 41 Action News. “With the women's movement for equal rights, well it's swung so far we have now taken away the man's right and the say in their child's life.”
Women’s reproductive health groups including Planned Parenthood and EMILY’S List skewered the proposed legislation.
“I would not even characterize this as an abortion restriction,” Planned Parenthood’s Kansas and Mid-Missouri CEO Laura McQuade said. “This is a human rights violation when it comes to suggesting that women would need permission in order to obtain the healthcare that they decide is right for themselves.”
“Well it's not a woman's body with an abortion. It's a child's body.” Brattin said, when asked whether he understood why women might consider his bill offensive. “It's a child's life that's taken. The woman's life is not altered.”
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Brattin’s bill would not affect women who are victims of rape and incest, but he drew withering criticism for his use of the phrase “legitimate rape” – made infamous by fellow Missourian Todd Akin – in the Mother Jones interview.
"Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it," Brattin told Mother Jones. "So you couldn't just go and say, 'Oh yeah, I was raped' and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape."
Sen. Claire McCaskill, who defeated Akin to retain her Senate seat in 2012, called Brattin’s comments a “back-door way to eliminate any rape exception” in a statement. She described the bill as “offensive and absurd.”
Brattin told 41 Action News this remark was misinterpreted. He said that while he hoped women would not falsely claim to have been raped, should his bill become law, they would not be required to present documentation proving they had been.
“A rape is a rape. And if that occurs it's horrible, and that's what the provision is provided in the language,” he said. “If it does occur then by all means if they seek that they can [obtain an abortion].”
Ed Martin, the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, said he had not examined Brattin’s bill yet, but that in general, his party was supportive of measures to further restrict abortions in the Show-Me State.
“The Republican party's platform is very clear that life begins at conception, and we think abortion is wrong,” Martin said. “When we see bills that are trying to address the seriousness of abortion, we certainly are encouraging.”