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In abortion debates, female lawmakers recount their rapes

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For more than two decades, Nancy Mace did not speak publicly about her rape. In April, when she finally broke her silence, she chose the most public of forums — before her colleagues in South Carolina’s legislature.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For more than two decades, Nancy Mace did not speak publicly about her rape. In April, when she finally broke her silence, she chose the most public of forums — before her colleagues in South Carolina’s legislature.
A bill was being debated that would ban all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected; Mace, a Republican lawmaker, wanted to add an exception for rape and incest. When some of her colleagues in the House dismissed her amendment — some women invent rapes to justify seeking an abortion, they claimed — she could not restrain herself.
“For some of us who have been raped, it can take 25 years to get up the courage and talk about being a victim of rape,” Mace said, gripping the lectern so hard she thought she might pull it up from the floor. “My mother and my best friend in high school were the only two people who knew.”
As one Republican legislature after another has pressed ahead with restrictive abortion bills in recent months, they have been confronted with raw and emotional testimony about the consequences of such laws. Female lawmakers and other women have stepped forward to tell searing, personal stories — in some cases speaking about attacks for the first time to anyone but a loved one or their closest friend.
Mace is against abortion in most cases and supported the fetal heartbeat bill as long as it contained the exception for rape and incest. She said her decision to reveal an attack that has haunted her for so long was intended to help male lawmakers understand the experience of those victims.
“It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you are on, there are so many of us who share this trauma and this experience,” Mace said in an interview. “Rape and incest are not partisan issues.

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