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Author Notes:

Dabney P. Evans, dabney.evans@emory.edu

The authors wish to express their gratitude to Debbie Billings, Victoria Lambert, and Emily Loud for their support in collecting data from South Carolina.

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).



  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
  • abortion
  • reproductive justice
  • rape
  • incest
  • sexual violence
  • gender-based violence

"A daily reminder of an ugly incident horizontal ellipsis ": analysis of debate on rape and incest exceptions in early abortion ban legislation in six states in the southern US


Journal Title:



Volume 31, Number 1


, Pages 2198283-2198283

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Abortion bans in the United States often include provisions for abortion in the circumstances of rape or incest experience. Such exceptions have been included in important legislation like the Hyde Amendment, 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, 2010 Affordable Care Act, and state and federal legislation banning abortion in early gestation. Thus, examination of these laws is critical given the 2022 Supreme Court decision to devolve legal access to the state level. This study examines arguments made by proponents and opponents of rape and incest exceptions within early abortion ban legislation using publicly available video archives from legislative sessions in six Southern states. A narrative analysis was conducted on the legislative debate of rape and incest exceptions during the 2018–2019 legislative sessions. We found three core themes when examining legislative debate: belief in people’s claims underpinned opposition or support for exceptions; opinions about trauma were related to views on exceptions; and exception supporters called for empathy and non-partisanship in consideration of rape and incest. Additionally, support and opposition for the inclusion of rape and incest exceptions in draft law did not follow party lines. This study seeks to deepen understanding of the strategies used by legislators to promote and rebuff rape and incest exceptions in early abortion legislation while providing greater opportunity for tailored reproductive health, rights, and justice advocacy and policy, especially in the context of the US South where abortion access is now extremely restricted.

Copyright information:

© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/).
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