KENNER, La. (WGNO)— Most of the debate around Louisiana’s new abortion law centers on the fact that it’s a strict ban that makes abortion a crime. But what’s not been talked about as much, is the fact that the law makes no exceptions for women and girls who are raped.
Women like Sara Cusimano.
In 1994, when she was 13 years old, Cusimano was kidnapped in Kenner by a stranger, raped, and shot in the face. In the emergency room, the doctor made a decision with Cusimano’s mother to give Sara an abortion procedure to make sure that if her rapist had impregnated her, she would not give birth.
“Rape is such a physical thing, and pregnancy is such a physical thing. You can’t separate the two,” Cusimano told WGNO’s Susan Roesgen in an exclusive interview.
“Would the baby have always reminded you of him?” Roesgen asked.
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” said Cusimano.
The FBI’s most recent crime stats show that more than 1,300 women were raped in Louisiana in 2019– 744 of them in New Orleans alone. However, neither Planned Parenthood of Louisiana nor the Center for Reproductive Rights keeps tabs on the number of pregnant rape victims who seek abortions.
In 2006, Cusimano joined Planned Parenthood to lobby the Louisiana legislature to make rape an exception to the state’s abortion ban. It was a losing battle. The ban took effect this year without an exclusion for rape or incest when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“To me, it’s not about abortion for me,” Cusimano explained. “It’s about a rape victim being allowed the opportunity to choose how they recover from their rape.”
Although Cusimano says it’s “very difficult” to recount the rape, she says she has to continue to tell her story in her attempt to persuade politicians to see why rape should be an exclusion from any abortion ban.
“I wasn’t put in this position by my rapist. I was put in this position by elected officials,” she says, “and that is infuriating.”
Going forward, Cusimano says she will do what she had to do to survive her attack: keep fighting.
“I will not go silently. “I’m at a point in my life where I have to speak for those rape victims that can’t speak for themselves.”
Cusimano finds it ironic that when she was attacked in 1994, she had just started 8th grade at Dominican High School– the same school where anti-abortion Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett had graduated a few years earlier. Cusimano feels certain that Justice Barrett was very familiar with Cusimano’s ordeal and yet remains opposed to abortion for any reason.