New GOP conspiracy theory: Babies are getting abortions!


There are many questions that immediately crop to mind upon hearing state Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Mo., claim that a “1-year-old could get an abortion under” a Democratic proposal for rape and incest exceptions in the state’s near-total abortion ban. 

The first, of course, is whether Eigel is ignorant enough of human biology to believe babies can get pregnant. It’s a possibility, putting his claims in the echelon of idiotic beliefs Republicans have about reproduction, from claiming a woman can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” to arguing it’s “abortion” to avoid getting pregnant in the first place. Then there’s the second question: Assuming that babies could get pregnant, is Eigel arguing that it would be a good thing to force a baby to deliver another, barely smaller baby?

On the latter question, we do have an answer, though it is stomach-churning: Yes. Eigel’s stance is that forced childbirth in very small children (and, though impossible, babies) is a good thing. Nor is he alone in this view.  Earlier this month, Republicans in the Missouri state Senate voted down the proposal to allow rape and incest victims access to abortion. In the process, Republicans repeatedly argued that being forced to give birth to a rapist’s child is good for a rape victim, regardless of how young they are. 

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The entire debate was a stark reminder of the misogyny that drives the modern GOP. It’s why the party is lining up eagerly behind Donald Trump, a man who a jury recently found liable for sexual assault, a crime he’s been caught bragging about on tape. Republicans increasingly have no limits when it comes to tolerating sexualized violence against girls and women. 

“You’re OK with forced birth of a child being raped, right?” Democratic state Sen. Doug Beck asked Eigel

Earlier this month, Republicans in the Missouri state Senate voted down the proposal to allow rape and incest victims access to abortion.

Eigel insisted, “I don’t support the institutions of rape or of incest,” though his loud, continued support of Trump tells another story. But on the topic of forced childbirth for rape victims, he was blunt: It’s for the best. He falsely claimed allowing child rape victims to get abortions would lead them to commit suicide, saying, “I can’t imagine Missouri will be a better place tomorrow if we have individuals inflicting abortion on kids.”

Eigel speaks of abortion like it’s robbing a child rape victim of a precious opportunity. Sadly, Eigel’s view that it’s good when small children (and apparently, babies) are forced to give birth is not a rare one in the GOP. Throughout the debate, Republicans spoke of forced childbirth as if it’s a beautiful gift they’re granting rape victims. Republican state Sen. Rick Brattin, for instance, argued that being forced to give birth to a rapist’s baby “may even be the greatest healing agent you need in which to recover from such an atrocity.” 

In defending her belief that it’s good to force rape victims to give birth, Republican state Sen. Sandy Crawford argued that “God is perfect. God does not make mistakes.” She allowed that being raped might be “mentally taxing” for victims, but shrugged it off with, “Bad things happen.” 

The callousness towards rape victims isn’t just a failure of empathy, however. Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement within liberal and even centrist circles, for the MAGA right, it’s still rape victims who are held responsible for rape. And unwanted childbirth is viewed as a sacrifice the victim should endure to redeem herself. 

When the subject shifts from imaginary pedophilia to real instances of child rape, it’s Republicans who resist all efforts to relieve the suffering of the victims.

If that sounds harsh, I invite readers to revisit the CNN town hall Trump held right after a jury found him liable for sexually assaulting journalist E. Jean Carroll. Trump offered his glib denials, of course, but then immediately pivoted to basically admitting it happened — and blaming Carroll for it.

“What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes you’re playing hanky-panky in a dressing room?” Trump sneered. The MAGA audience roared with approval. 

The notion that rape happens because the victim “caused” the rapist to “stumble” is widespread on the Christian right. The public was reminded of this in 2022 when a 300-page report about sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention was released. It featured an almost numbing parade of stories of victims being told that they were to blame for the rape. In many cases, the victims were forced to apologize to their rapists or stand in front of the congregations to “repent” for tempting the rapist. In other cases, the church used its resources to cover up for the rape and pressured the victim to pretend it never happened. Either way, the message is clear-cut: The real victim of the rape is the rapist, who was “tempted” by a loose woman, or in many cases, a child. 

I’m far from the first person to note that conservative rhetoric is replete with psychological projection. Put more simply, with Republicans, every accusation is a confession. Certainly, this enthusiasm for forced childbirth on rape victims is a proof point. The MAGA right has become fond of lobbing the word “groomer” at every liberal who advocates for LGBTQ equality, free speech, or reproductive rights. The implication is that these things are all cover for the supposed liberal desire to inflict sexual violence on children. But, of course, when the subject shifts from imaginary pedophilia to real instances of child rape, it’s Republicans who resist all efforts to relieve the suffering of the victims. Instead, they treat the victims like they’re the real perpetrators.

Frankly, I don’t think Eigel is stupid enough to believe 1-year-olds can get pregnant. I certainly doubt he sincerely thinks there are 1-year-olds picking the phone, calling the clinic, and scheduling an abortion. Instead, like many Republican conspiracy theories, it’s more symbolic than literal. The newly invented myth of the abortion-getting baby is a stand-in for a larger constellation of GOP outrage over what they perceive as liberals “teaching” women and children to disobey the stringent patriarchal rules governing their behavior.

It’s much like the right-wing myth that elementary school kids are using litterboxes for mysteriously sexual reasons. It’s about stoking this hysterical view of what happens if liberals’ ideas about women’s equality and children’s rights are allowed to prevail. Why, next thing you know, babies will be aborting their own babies! It’s just an especially grotesque way to paint the oppressors as victims and recast actual victims as the villains. 

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