NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Rep. Lee Chatfield DOES have a Republican primary challenger.
Stephanie Chatfield, the wife of conservative tea party Republican state House Representative Lee Chatfield, revealed this week that she had an abortion when she was in high school. In a post on Facebook, Ms. Chatfield revealed that she became pregnant after attending a party and being sexually assaulted, according to her description of what happened:
In high school, I made a poor decision to attend a party one night. I have no memory of the majority of that night, but judging by my appearance and physical condition the next morning, I knew I had been taken advantage of. Three weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.
A month after the assault, Ms. Chatfield terminated her pregnancy.
A blackmailer approached the couple recently, making it clear that they intended to make the story public, presumably to harm the candidacy of Rep. Chatfield who is running for re-election in the 107th House District. In her Facebook post, Ms. Chatfield reaffirms her opposition to abortion and implores young women in similar circumstances to seek help at a crisis pregnancy center, to reach out to their friends and family, and not to choose the path that she had chosen.
This is a disgusting situation and the blackmailer will hopefully pay a severe karmic price for exploiting a rape victim for political gain. Ms. Chatfield is not running for office. Ms. Chatfield’s position on abortion now – or that of her husband – is irrelevant to the conversation. She was a teenaged rape victim and exploiting her tragic story is unconscionable.
Some will portray this as rank hypocrisy on the part of the Chatfields who would deny other women in this sort of terrible situation the choice to terminate their pregnancy by a rapist. That is, however, not what this is. This is, first and foremost, an example of politics at its absolute worst. Exploiting Stephanie Chatfield to damage her husband’s political career is evil and wrong and disgusting.
It is also an indictment on anti-Choice zealots and other religionists who have created a toxic environment of shame so intense that a rape victim spends the rest of her life wracked by guilt for a decision made under intense duress as a teenager. Whether you are pro-Choice or anti-Choice, nobody deserves that.
I don’t agree with Ms. Chatfield on the issue of abortion but she, at least, is honest about her position and wants to help other women who are dealing with unwanted pregnancies in proactive ways that don’t involve shame and shunning and victimizing the victim. In her case, Ms. Chatfield’s blackmailer is making her a victim all over again.
It’s possible that this blackmailing scheme is coming from a supporter of his Democratic opponent, Phil Bellfy. If so, they are not only not helping, they have compromised some of the fundamental values held by Democrats. Their reprehensible actions go against everything that Democrats stand for in terms of fairness and justice and advancing the position of women in our society. This seems unlikely since the primary has yet to happen.
If, on the other hand, this is coming from someone supporting Rep. Chatfield’s GOP primary opponent, Kathy Twardy, it’s shitty, mudslinging Republican politics at its worst with a rape survivor as its ultimate victim.