Politics Of Rape And Contraception

rape crime attack sexual assault police

Lori Robinson is a survivor.

"When I got to my front doorstep I saw the barrel of a gun pointing at my head," she says. "I was rushed up to my apartment, blindfolded and gagged with duct-tape and tied down on my bed, and I was raped by two strangers."

She feared disease, emotional collapse but not pregnancy, because the hospital in Washington D.C. offered her emergency contraception.

Being told about the emergency contraception, she says, "in that time of total devastation, it was a relief."

But, as CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports, it wasn't a right, because these days emergency contraception is embroiled in the bitter politics of abortion.

Now, there's some confusion over just what emergency contraception is. It is not RU-486 - the pill which can cause an abortion early in a pregnancy. Emergency contraception is also known as the morning-after pill. Taken soon after a rape, it can actually prevent a pregnancy.

In Colorado, a measure that would have required hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims was vetoed by the governor.

He was strongly supported by the Catholic Church, which calls it tantamount to abortion.

"If ovulation has occurred, there's a potential for new life in that woman, so then the church's responsibility is to protect both the woman and the new baby," says Alia Keys, coordinator of the Office of Marriage and Family for the Archdiocese of Denver.

The federal government is siding squarely with religious conservatives. Dr. Michael Weaver helped draft national guidelines for rape victims, which strongly recommended offering the morning-after pill.

But when the Justice Department released the final version, all mention of emergency contraception had been removed.

"If indeed this prevents an unwanted pregnancy then that subsequently prevents abortions down the line," says Weaver of St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City.

Some 25,000 women become pregnant from rape each year. To this rape survivor, there is no debate.

"How dare someone tell me what's best," says Robinson.

But for many hospitals and physicians it's a moral issue.

"I think that it's not their decision to make," says Robinson.

Right now, that depends where a rape occurs.

Robinson has written a book about her experiences titled I Will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing from Sexual Assault and Abuse.