The lead House sponsor of legislation pitched by advocates as improving the safety of abortion clinics and restricting certain late-term abortions described kits used after sexual assaults as akin to a procedure that scrapes out tissue lining the uterus.
In floor debate that extended from Sunday into Monday, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, mentioned “rape kits” after Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, presented an amendment to Senate Bill 5 to exempt victims of rape and incest from limits on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Laubenberg, responding to questions from Democratic Reps. Joseph Moody of El Paso and Dawnna Dukes of Austin, framed her refusal to accept Thompson’s amendment by implying that rape kits used in hospitals can prevent unwanted pregnancy. Laubenberg said that currently, in “the emergency rooms they have what’s called rape kits, that the woman can get cleaned out, basically like a D&C” — dilation and curettage surgery, often performed after miscarriages.
We looked into whether the representative was correct that a rape kit is akin to dilation and curettage surgery, ultimately finding no common ground or any factual basis for this claim.
Dilation and curettage, according to a fact sheet on the website of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is a surgical procedure that removes tissue from the lining of the uterus; it is often performed after a miscarriage.
The doctors’ group put us in touch with Dr. Bonnie Dattel, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, who said that a D&C is sometimes performed after a miscarriage to remove material left from the pregnancy that could cause infection or excessive bleeding if left in place.
In contrast, a rape kit typically consists of tools, storage containers and paperwork related to collecting evidence in the first days after a possible sexual assault, according to Texas experts we reached and information posted online by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, which calls itself the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.
“The evidence kit affords the opportunity to collect any DNA that may have been left by the suspect,” the network says on its website.
In interviews, representatives of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the Collin County-based Turning Point Rape Crisis Center, which counsels rape survivors, elaborated on what a rape kit is and isn’t.
TAASA spokesman Rick Gipprich said sometimes a pregnancy test is administered, but that is solely to see if a survivor might have been pregnant before the assault. Also, he said, the pregnancy test is not part of the kit.
In addition, Gipprich said, a survivor may be offered high-dose antibiotics to ward off sexually transmitted diseases as well as a “morning after” pill to prevent impregnation, though such drugs and those offers are not part of the kit, he said.
Jennifer Spugnardi, director of the Turning Point center, said by telephone that a rape kit is “really papers and envelopes,” reflecting the nurse examiner’s responsibility to document an incident.
Spugnardi said the kits are sometimes called “Sirchie kits,” referring to a forensics supplies company that sells the kits. Online, we found a photo of a $15 Sirchie kit designed to meet criteria for a kit as spelled out in a publication from the Texas attorney general’s office. Sirchie describes the kit as containing legal and medical forms, oral swabs and hair combs and containers to separately hold clothing or biological samples.
By email and telephone, we asked Laubenberg how she reached her conclusion. She didn’t immediately respond.
Our ruling: Laubenberg said a rape kit is equivalent to dilation and curettage surgery. We find this unsupported claim incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!
Statement: Says a “rape kit” can be used to “clean out” women, “basically like” dilation and curettage.