Republican candidate Yesli Vega, who is running in Virginia’s seventh congressional district, has garnered great backlash for comments implying that women are less likely to become pregnant via rape. Vega, who is campaigning against the currently seated Democrat Abigail Spanberger, was questioned about her opinions on abortion in audio files exclusively obtained by Axios.
The candidate was queried on her stance prior to the official overturning of Roe v. Wade on the pending Supreme Court decision last month but was leaked by Axios on Monday 27 June. Citing her experience as a Prince William County supervisor and a sheriff’s deputy, Vega affirmed her beliefs for restrictions on abortion by stating, “It’s not something that’s happening organically.”
“The left will say, ‘Well what about in cases of rape or incest?’ I’m a law enforcement officer. I became a police officer in 2011. I’ve worked one case where as a result of a rape, the young woman became pregnant,” she began. The Republican was then asked the following question: “I’ve actually heard that it’s harder for a woman to get pregnant if she’s been raped. Have you heard that?”
To which Vega responded: “Well, maybe because there’s so much going on in the body. I don’t know. I haven’t, you know, seen any studies. But if I’m processing what you’re saying, it wouldn’t surprise me. Because it’s not something that’s happening organically. You’re forcing it. The individual, the male, is doing it as quickly—it’s not like, you know—and so I can see why there is truth to that. It’s unfortunate.”
Winning the Republican primary for the chance to challenge Spanberger’s seat last week, Vega went on to suggest that abortion rights groups are “pushing a narrative that the vast majority of abortions are from pregnancies as a result of rape, when in fact that is not true,” as reported by The Independent. The publication went on to cite evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which has statistically proven that around three million US women have experienced pregnancy via rape within their lifetime.
In fact, another 1996 study into pregnancy rates via assault showed that the US national rape-related pregnancy rate was “five per cent per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45).” A statistic that culminates in around 32,000 pregnancies as a product of rape each year and “among 34 cases of rape-related pregnancy, the majority occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often [related] perpetrator.”
Vega’s comments have come under fire with VoteVets—a committee dedicated to the electing of progressive veterans to office—that took to Twitter and stated, “Yesli Vega is an extremist and way out of touch with voters in Virginia and throughout the country. We didn’t fight overseas to have our freedoms taken away here at home by people like Vega. Her comments are outrageous, disgusting and shameful.”
President Pro Tempore for the Senate of Virginia, Louise Lucas also wrote, “This woman is running around in law enforcement spewing this kind of crap? She’s a complete disgrace to everyone else wearing that uniform.” Her currently elected rival Spanberger also responded to the Republican candidate’s comments published by Axios, stating that it is “shamefully disrespectful toward victims of rape, and clearly indicate that she is not qualified to be making serious policy decisions.”
When asked for comments about her remarks by Axios, Vega told the publication in a statement, “I’m a mother of two, I’m fully aware of how women get pregnant.”
After the Supreme Court voted to overturn the landmark legislation of Roe v. Wade on Friday 24 July 2022, subsequently banning abortion access for a huge swathe of states in the US, a number of corporate companies are now coming forward to provide aid to their employees in these difficult times. For those staff who find themselves in a state with no access to this medical service, giants like Apple, BuzzFeed, Microsoft, Disney and Vox Media (to name but a few) will be providing monetary relief to individuals who may need to travel or even for those who will face legal repercussions.
Among these, we’ve looked at just six of the many companies who are doing their part to combat this human rights violation.
Among the companies ensuring the protection of their employees and their access to abortion are many of the large dating apps. Match Group (MTCH)—which owns a band of dating platforms like Hinge, Tinder and OKCupid—already came out in September 2021, following Texas’ six-week abortion ban, to support its workers based in the state. Former CEO Shar Dubey announced in a memo to employees at the time that she would personally create a fund that would aid workers to access out-of-state care, CNBC reported.
The fund came as a result of a partnership curated in October 2021 with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and now, in light of the landmark overturning of Roe v. Wade, the company is reportedly considering offering this benefit to all staff in the US. According to a Match spokesperson interviewed by CNN, this would also include remote staff with further plans to cover the costs of travel and lodging. But MTCH isn’t the only dating group to make such a move.
Female-first dating app Bumble came out with a statement on its website following the leaked Supreme Court abortion draft that its employees would also have access to this care covered. “We believe in equitable access and the protection of women in every stage of their reproductive journey. And we will continue to fight for the rights and protections of women all over the world,” the statement read.
“The health and safety of our team is our utmost priority and that includes covering access to abortion care. We will continue to partner with organisations that work to provide reproductive access to all.”
Starbucks has also committed to aiding its workers following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The coffee giant will be offering staff enlisted in its healthcare plan with funds to cover medical travel when it pertains to an abortion, CBS reported. The announcement first came in a public letter from acting executive vice president of partner resources, Sara Kelly.
“We all need to process this in our own way, and as you do, here is what I want you to know: no matter where you live, or what you believe, we will always ensure you have access to quality healthcare,” Kelly said in the letter.
Netflix has also joined the list of corporate giants in the aiding of its staff to have access to the now-banned medical service. The streaming platform has followed suit with the same tactics and will not only provide coverage that will reimburse travel for those who need to access abortions but also for those travelling for gender-affirming care, a spokesperson told CNN. The company will reportedly be providing a “lifetime allowance of $10,000 per employee (or their dependents) [per] service.” This will allegedly also cover travel reimbursement for cancer treatment and transplants.
Not only do Uber’s US staff have this same travel coverage benefit to access abortion and likewise healthcare, the car ride app will also be protecting its drivers who are transporting passengers to clinics. This is the result of the terrifying ‘bounty hunter’ law in Texas that would award those who report ‘illegal’ abortions with $10,000.
“If the barista at Starbucks overhears you talking about your abortion, and it was performed after six weeks, that barista is authorised to sue the clinic where you obtained the abortion and to sue any other person who helped you, like the Uber driver who took you there,” Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University, told The New York Times. However, it looks like Uber will be defending and shielding its drivers from such consequences in the state.
Its insurance plans will reimburse any drivers who are sued under Texas law for facilitating the transportation of someone pursuing an abortion to a clinic through its app, a spokesperson told CNN.
Clothing company Patagonia will also be providing the very same access as a number of the aforementioned groups—reimbursing and covering the expenses of travel, stay and food for its staff on its health plan who seek to access abortion care. Apart from this, the company will also be granting aid in bailing out any workers arrested while protesting for their right to abortion, Bloomberg reported.
This benefit would be accessible by both full and part-time employees who “peacefully protest for reproductive justice,” the company said on 24 July.