Ensuring Access to Abortion is Trauma-Informed Care

By Samantha Sheppard and Alix Tarnowsky.

Voting yes on Amendment 1 would require survivors who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest to carry the pregnancy to term in Louisiana. 

Pregnancy as a result of rape is a public health issue where sexual violence and reproductive health connect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 3 million women in the U.S. experience a rape-related pregnancy during their lifetime.[1] As advocates for survivors of sexual violence, STAR believes that we must ensure that survivors have the right to bodily autonomy, including the right to terminate a pregnancy as a result of rape or incest. 

Facts about Abortion and Rape

We know that sexual violence disproportionately impacts women and girls. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 82% of all minor victims of rape and 90% of adult victims of rape identify as female.[2] Furthermore, girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to experience incest, rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.[3] There are several short-term health consequences of rape; these include physical injury, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy, just to name a few. Nationally, 5% of all rapes committed among women and girls of reproductive age (ages 12 to 45) result in pregnancy.[4]

We know this issue is a particular concern for minors and young adults who are most at risk for experiencing rape, and who also experience barriers to accessing reproductive healthcare, such as birth control and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Of all female victims, 41% reported that their first experience of rape or incest happened prior to age 18.[5]

Eliminating or restricting abortion as an option for survivors of rape and incest hinders their ability to recover from sexual violence and puts their overall health and lives at risk. 

Abortion in Louisiana

In a nationwide study, Louisiana was found to be one of the country’s “most hostile” states for abortion.[6] Since abortion was legalized in 1973, Louisiana has enacted 89 restrictions on abortion—the most out of any state. 

At this time in Louisiana, abortion is legal and protected by Federal law; however, access to clinics that provide abortions is extremely limited throughout the state. In 2017, 94% of Louisiana parishes had no clinics that provided abortions, and 72% of Louisiana women lived in those parishes.[7] In 2017, there were four facilities providing abortion in Louisiana; in 2020 there are only three. 

Current abortion restrictions present many barriers to survivors accessing reproductive options that are right for them. These restrictions make it difficult for women to access abortion providers and pay for an abortion, as well as for providers to keep facilities open. These restrictions especially impact people with low incomes and people of color, for whom the cost of transportation, childcare, and taking time off work often combine to put abortion access out of reach. 

What is Amendment 1? 

This year, an anti-abortion amendment will be on Louisiana citizens’ ballots for the November 3rd election. This amendment would add language to our state constitution that removes the right for any Louisiana citizen to have an abortion. This amendment has no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest; therefore, if this amendment passes, it would mean that survivors who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest would be required to carry the pregnancy to term in Louisiana. 

Amendment 1, if passed, would add the following language to the Louisiana State Constitution:

“To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion”

When many of us think of the Constitution, we think of rights that we are afforded to us as individuals in this country and state. We look to the Constitution to protect us, but with the adoption of Amendment 1, Louisiana is preemptively saying we cannot look to our state constitution to protect our right to make decisions about our bodies and what is best for our families. The addition of Amendment 1 would also erode trust in patient-physician relationships since the amendment would, in effect, take away the ability of doctors to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare to their patients. Again, this language does not afford any exceptions, including rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant person. 

According to a STAR advocate:

“When discussing the most vulnerable and those who would be most impacted by the passing of Amendment 1, a specific client comes to mind. A woman called STAR’s 24/7 crisis hotline and was, as is often the case, vague about what prompted them to reach out for help and what help they were seeking. The caller eventually disclosed that their minor daughter was pregnant as a result of a rape and, through multiple family conversations, the daughter wanted to obtain an abortion. They had made a decision but unsure of what next steps were, they reached out to STAR knowing that they would receive nonjudgmental, unbiased information about community resources. The next couple of weeks were difficult and stressful for the client and her mother as they dealt with scheduling appointments, taking time off of school and work, coming up with money for the procedure, and fear of judgment from peers and other family members, all of it adding to the trauma the client already experienced. The client was able to get their procedure done but the hoops and misinformation they had to navigate could have had a negative impact on their ability to heal from their trauma. The passing of Amendment 1 would require that survivors who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest continue the pregnancy and be reminded daily of their assault.”

Every day, survivors across the US make personal decisions about their pregnancies and those decisions deserve respect, privacy, and choice. Support survivors by saying NO to Amendment 1. 

For more information on the importance of voting NO to Amendment 1 please visit, https://laforfreedoms.org 


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 13). Understanding pregnancy resulting from rape in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/datasources/nisvs/understanding-RRP-inUS.html on October 19, 2020.

[2] Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (n.d.). Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violenceon October 19, 2020. 

[3] Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (n.d.). Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violenceon October 19, 2020. 

[4] Holmes, M. M., Resnick, H. S., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. L. (1996). Rape-related pregnancy: Estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 175(2), 320-325. doi:10.1016/s0002-9378(96)70141-2

[5] Smith, S.G., Chen, J., Basile, K.C., Gilbert, L.K., Merrick, M.T., Patel, N., Walling, M., & Jain, A. (2017). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010-2012 State Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[6] Nash, E., & Guttmacher Institute. (2020, July 06). State Abortion Policy Landscape: From Hostile to Supportive. Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2019/08/state-abortion-policy-landscape-hostile-supportive# on October 19, 2020.

[7] Nash, E., & Guttmacher Institute. (2020, July 06). State Abortion Policy Landscape: From Hostile to Supportive. Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2019/08/state-abortion-policy-landscape-hostile-supportive# on October 19, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s