False Rape Claims and Abortion: How to Make Everything Better

This is a guest post by Stephanie Van Dyk. She is a third year student at the University of British Columbia Freethinkers and member of the UBC Freethinkers.

You might have seen this:

I think nearly everyone would agree it’s absolutely horrendous. It’s rude, it’s sexist, and it’s factually incorrect on nearly every level.

In short, studies show that 60% of rape cases go unreported, rape is (quite obviously) not impossible, measuring false reports is difficult to do but is often found to be near the average for all reported crime, and people are not reducible to their gender roles.

But he has one thing right, something that bothers me but is nevertheless true: Roe vs. Wade began when Jane Roe claimed she falsely claimed she was raped.

This troubles me. Rape is a serious accusation, and I often find myself defending rape victims against people who claim that women fake rape all the time. “They’re trying to bring down a good man,” they’ll often say.

This is not true, but this point about Roe vs. Wade does not help the cause. Is there more to the story?

Of course. Let’s clarify.

Why Did Roe Want an Abortion?

Roe was pregnant with her third child. Her marriage had ended, she was in her early twenties, her first child was living with her mother and her second had been placed for adoption.

Roe decided that she was unable to care for this next child.

Abortion, still mostly illegal throughout the USA, was the best option to her mind.

Why Did She Lie?

Roe had a friend that told her that, in her state, abortion was legal in cases of rape and incest. Roe tried to claim she was raped in order to qualify. This did not succeed – there was no evidence for her claims in the police records. She eventually admitted she made the whole thing up.

In fact, she was unable to procure an abortion and had her child, who was soon adopted.

I do not condone making false accusations of rape. However, I can understand why she tried. In a desperate situation, people do desperate things.

What’s the Big Deal?

In the US, reproductive rights are under attack. There’s a creeping and powerful movement to limit access to abortion. And they’re winning.

Some people try to be reasonable – how about only for incest? rape? very young women? – but this compromise is not helpful.

The lesson from Roe is this: when a woman feels she needs an abortion, she will do what she must to make it happen. She will try to game the system, in ways that are harmful to society, if she must. She will seek help from places that are harmful to her, if she must.

She will take it to the Supreme Court, if she must.

We also know that when abortion is made illegal, abortions do not stop happening. Instead, women die and society suffers.

I’m from Canada, where a woman’s right to choose is between her and her doctor. Society hasn’t fallen apart and, indeed, our abortion rate is lower –  14.1 per 1000 women in 2005, compared to America’s 19.4 per 1000 women in the same year. (2005 is the most recent year statistics are available in Canada.)

We’re sometimes called America Junior – and if we can do it, so can you.

If you are, in fact, concerned about false rape accusations then this is a cause you should get behind. Help us out here. Find out what’s happening where you live, and start calling your politicians.

Students, women, activists and allies – fight the good fight. Dream big. This is an important battle for the USA to win.

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  • Jade

    This is a great post! That guy sounds like an absolute nutjob and I can’t believe someone would say something as misleading and inaccurate as that. I’m definitely looking at what I can do in Wisconsin!

  • James Emery

    Indeed.  You make an extremely good point for why abortion access needs to be simple and easy to obtain. 

    That being said, the ‘false rape accusation’ falls kind of close to home for me, but not due to abortion…  One of my best friends got hit with an accusation by two girls that he had raped BOTH of them at a party.  Apparently, there was some flirting with both, but he slept with one of the women, who turned out to be cheating on her boyfriend.  When her boyfriend FOUND OUT, she claimed my friend had raped her and her other friend.  This fell apart very quickly before the indictment hearing, as the girls didn’t seem to bother keeping their stories straight, but the accusation and arrest itself have barred my friend from being able to join the local police force, and a few other jobs (Not to mention, he’s about as likely to rape someone as one of my cats!).  While both he and I know that the false accusation is a rarity, it’s personally impacted his life in a very negative way.

  • Anonymous

    I would guess abortion rates are lower in Canada becuase seeing a dr for a birth control prescription is free. BC isn’t cheap, but you still need a prescription unless you use a condom. More birth control generally means fewer unplanned pregnacies. But access to birth control is second on the list of women’s rights to stomp on.

  • Aaron

    Any repercussions to the girls who falsely accused your friend of rape? People who falsely claim rape are often not punished in any way even though they have ruined the life or reputation of the person they accused.

  • He should sue the woman for defamation.

  • He should sue the woman for defamation.

  • altarego

    Great post, and thank you! I agree that this woman who claims to have been raped is rare, but may exist due to the pressures and stigma that *still* surround a woman’s right to her own body.

  • Stephanie Van Dyk

    oral contraceptive and condoms, while easy to acquire, are not covered
    by our health care system. But the fact that they are easily available
    is a big part of it, I would guess. (There are some organizations that
    provide them free to young or low-income people. That’s the best.)

  • Alex

    Filing a false police report is the bare minimum she would’ve found herself charged with. Of course they’re punished, but keep missing the point of this post that dudes are the real victims of rape culture and not those who never say anything.

  • Littlewoodimp

    I’m a woman and I have been raped. I was too afraid to report it, not least because my (then) husband had stated in the past that he would actually always believe that I had done something to deserve it and would probably never be able to trust me again. So I am very sympathetic to women experiencing rape and the wide ranging negative effects whether it’s reported or not. I believe absolutely it should be treated as the serious violent crime that it is. But when a woman makes a false allegation and it is proved to be false – she should be treated as a criminal. Because, in a way, she has raped the guys life. She has taken away his peace of mind, his good reputation (because people locally WILL find out and there WILL be gossip), she has attached something foul and dirty to him forever and she has limited his ability to live the life that he wants to – as with your friend with his choice of career.  It’s a damaging personal attact, plain and simple.

  • Littlewoodimp

    I’m a woman and I have been raped. I was too afraid to report it, not least because my (then) husband had stated in the past that he would actually always believe that I had done something to deserve it and would probably never be able to trust me again. So I am very sympathetic to women experiencing rape and the wide ranging negative effects whether it’s reported or not. I believe absolutely it should be treated as the serious violent crime that it is. But when a woman makes a false allegation and it is proved to be false – she should be treated as a criminal. Because, in a way, she has raped the guys life. She has taken away his peace of mind, his good reputation (because people locally WILL find out and there WILL be gossip), she has attached something foul and dirty to him forever and she has limited his ability to live the life that he wants to – as with your friend with his choice of career.  It’s a damaging personal attact, plain and simple.

  • Trevor

    It’s also interesting that here in Canada there is no federal law regarding abortion. At all. There are some provincial regulations but R. v Morgentaler essentially acknowledges a women’s right to an abortion if she desires.

  • Trevor

    In some jurisdictions (B.C. and ‘Fair Pharmacare’ for example) I think oral contraceptives can be covered by provincial plans. But you are right, the contraceptives aren’t always ‘free’. However Asrai’s point about the covered doctors visit might be important. A woman can walk into a clinic and out with a prescription without any direct charge in most (all?) provinces.

  • Aaron

    Keep missing the point of my comment about another commenter’s story and not about the post itself.

  • Stephanie Van Dyk

    Right. Your doctor’s visit is covered by the gov, filling your prescriptions is not. I’ll admit my understanding is mostly related to British Columbia, where I’ve had to pay for these things out of pocket.

    Some people do have extended health insurance – dentist, glasses, etc – that covers things like oral contraceptive. Not all plans do, and not everyone has them.

    But correct – your doctor’s visit is covered.

  • Trevor

    While there have been occasional rumblings about creating a federal law to cover abortions (a few Conservatives promised it during the last campaign but I don’t think it’s part of the platform) I can’t recall anybody that would be listened too ever calling for restriction to birth control access up here. Even our most rabid crazies don’t seem too bothered by The Pill.

  • James Emery

    Not that I’m aware of, and I’ve not thought to ask my friend about it.  They might have gotten in trouble, but knowing judges around here, they very likely were let off with a stern warning.  One has to do something very serious in my locality to face any real consequences 😛

  • He probably got his statistics from Fox News.

  • Anonymous

    The US has also these ridiculous “abstinence only” programs in place of real sexual health education. The teen pregnancy rate is embarrassingly high for an industrialized country. Universal health care and proper education would go a great way towards reducing unwanted pregnancies. And be A LOT cheaper.

    The Obama administration actually just decided that birth control pills need to be covered by Medicare. Predictably, the usual Christian nutcases are starting to cry up a shitstorm.

  • Michael

    In the UK they’ve actually convicted a few for attempting to pervert the course of justice. It was driven by a woman who had driven men to suicide with false claims and kept on going. Because of laws protecting rape victims, the courts weren’t allowed to know that she’d made claims before or even that people had died because of them.

  • creepy.  it sounds like he’s tried to rape and couldn’t get it up.  lucky for us.

  • Fools2234

    Um false rape is just “average”? Really Stephanie? Here are two studies that confirm false rape to be a serious problem (one that I am sure you a feminist dont care about).

    Eugene Kanin study confirms 41% of rape reports to be false.


    US Airforce study concludes 60% of rape reports to be false, this 60% number holds even when taken into civilian populations.


    I’ll tell you what is offensive and sexism miss feminist, and that is your who cares attitude when it comes to false rape allegations (ones that destroy mens/boys lives).

    I also find it hilarious that you try to claim that false rape reports are only “average”. DID YOU KNOW that the 2% figure you cited on wikipedia doesnt even come from an actual study, BUT it came from a feminist claim. YUP no study just a feminist like you trying to minimize the huge issue false rape is. Dont believe me?  Here is the study by Edward Greer where he tracks down how feminists got their baseless 2% figure.


    I guess your bias is expected tho stephanie, I mean you are a feminist after all.

  • Anonymous

    I’m personally really hoping that the recent news about contraception being covered in health care is the first sign of eyes opening to this. It is hardly a solution on its own, but it may be one of the most valuable contributions made toward reproductive health and the abortion debate. (Of course, irrelevant to the rape issue, but no less important for that.)

  • James Emery

    Fools, while your claims might conceivably have some basis in reality (I’d have to do a good bit of research to verify your sources, as I’m familiar with neither) your case is going to be ignored by most people because you’re speaking like a condescending asshole.  This type of shit is why MRA folks are taken even less seriously overall than feminists.  Also, this post is the troll line.  Prepare for shitstorm.

  • Damn feminists, how dare women want equality. You lost me with the baseless attacks on a movement that has allowed me to vote, attend school, and have a career. 
    If you want to point out errors, you can do so with proper citations (is that a blogger account? My 8 year old cousin has one of those…) and rational arguments. 

  • Ian

    Its convenient that your comment has so much bile, because that serves to flag it as crap.

    Truth is that it is almost impossible to know, because studies are great ways to beam your biases back at you. Which is why you chose to feature the Kanin study and the IPT article.

    If anyone is genuinely interested in the actual state of the research on this topic, the survey paper by Philip Rumney is the place to start: 


    Discussions of rape are notorious for statistics made up on the spot, admitting a huge amount of researcher bias, and internet trolls jumping all over numbers that justify their bigotry. Nobody even agrees what the criteria for rape should be (for the purposes of scientific quantification), let alone what would constitute a false claim, and even if they did, we have no consistent method of sampling in populations. More quality scientific research into rape is sorely needed.

  • asrai

    That’s where I was going, badly phrased.

  • Whether a small percentage of reported rapes are false or a large number are false is irrelevant to me. Each reported instance needs to be investigated thoroughly and the guilty parties need to be punished, whether it is the original complainant or the accused.
    As a father,brother, husband and son, what concerns me most is that so many real rapes go unreported. What does that say about our society?

  • Fools2234

    OH look a straw man from a feminist how predictable, I was pointing out the feminist lies and the fact that she (like most feminists) is trying to claim false rape is not as serious as a problem than it really is.

    Yea doing that must mean Im just a misogonist that doesnt want the womens to have equality.

    OH and thanks so much for addressing the points that I made instead of changing the subject (like insulting me for having a blogspot account or something), shows how smart you are.

    Typical feminist.

    Oh yes feminist just fight for equality tho that must be why the post “action alerts” against shared parenting bills.


  • Fools2234

    And yet you say nothing about the obviously inflated “studies show that 60% of rape cases go unreported” from the feminist author.


  • Fools2234

    Simply pointing out the feminists stupidity and citing studies that show false rape to be a bigger problem then feminists like to admit is all that is needed to get into a “shitstorm” with people. In their mind rape is important and who gives a shit about false rape.

    So please dont worry yourself James I am used to being attacked by politically correct idiots and feminists. Its also funny you say MRA folks arent taken seriously because of me being a “condenscending asshole”? Why because I point out feminist lies with facts? 

    LOL just look at the one feminists response to my post, nothing but shame language and straw man exactly what I would expect from them.

  • Oh dear, I seem to have hit a nerve, and triggered a response with even fewer citations. 
    I never said false rape claims weren’t an issue, I can see both sides and have not done enough research into the matter to yet have a definitive opinion. Not that reality seems to matter much to you, but there it is. The irrational bile in your side comments it a big turn off to your argument.I also have no idea why you are going on about a random unrelated issue that I never talked about, feminism isn’t a hive mind club, it is simply the school of thought that women are human beings of equal value and capability to men. Many people take many different steps of logic from that, some more radical then others. As a feminist I personally support the idea that fathers be on equal footing concerning their children, and children should end up with the parent and or custody arrangement that fits the situation and is best for the children. I don’t know what your big problem with feminism is, to the point that you seem to feel attacked by its very existence. I hope you do some open minded research and reconciler your opinions, many feminists love men and want them to be our equal partners in life.

  • I agree Ian, we need far more quality research concerning the issue of rape, but for obvious reasons it is a very difficult, volatile and sensitive subject.

    It is hard to find the middle ground when rape claims are dismissed because a short skirt is viewed as ‘asking for it’ and a simple accusation is enough to ruin a person. 

  • I speak for all feminists now? Ooo, the power! *cackles, rides broom into sunset*

  • I agree, and wish I could like this comment far more then once.

  • Fools2234

    Well your comment (at first) was nothing but straw man attacking an invisible subject, one that I never mentioned – women having equal rights – then you proceed into shame language with your blogspot comment so how exactly was I supposed to respond? Certainly not kindly.

    Also the link I posted was that to NOW (the largest feminist organization in america) posting an “action alert” against shared parenting.

    Here is another link from them going against boy only schools because “”they increase sexism and exacerbate feelings of superiority toward women.” (yea thats not a sexist excuse or anything)


    Please remember that they are the LARGEST feminist organization in America, maybe they dont speak for all feminists but they certainly speak for most.

  • The NOW link is simply making the point that they think that mixed schools are preferable to isolated ones in terms of children learning how to relate to each other. They are also against girl only schools if you read the first sentence. I can see how someone may disagree with that stance, bit I don’t see how it is sexist. 

    This is also simply one press release and nothing close to the evidence you need to prove, whatever it is you are trying to prove, something about (presumably all) feminists are X. It isn’t really clear, but all I can tell is that you are spitting angry about it.

    It is a bit like listening to my grandpa get upset over ‘teens today being hooligans’.

    Women having equal rights is the very core definition of feminist perspective and definition (which you ranted about with no coherent point), hardly an invisible subject. It is a bit like ranting on about the red cross without giving any real specifics as to why, then crying straw-man when someone calls you out  for dumping on a charity then lists their good works.

    Blogspot is simply a blogging platform, not any form of peer reviewed publication, it is reasonable to question the value of that as a source, which was my point.  As far as inciting kind responses, well, pot meet kettle in that regard.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. You learn something new and horrifying every day, doncha? 

    While “Jane Roe’s” false accusation of rape will inevitably send all the pundits agog with “wimmin is skeeeeeeemin beeeeeetches” nonsense, I think you hit the nail on the head by pointing out that she was desperately trying to cheat an unfair system. Yes, it was the unwanted pregnancy that got her there in the first place, but it was the institution that limited her options so severely that she stooped to dishonesty.

    Oh, and Fools: your first link goes to a study done in ONE city in the US; this can hardly, logically, be applied universally. Not to mention that we have extremely insufficient data informing us of how many rape victims DON’T report (given that rape, in and of itself, is a humiliating and degrading event and many women find the examination nearly as traumatic; there are scads of reasons why women don’t report rapes that all boil down to shame and guilt).

    I heard rumors of one fraternity on the Big Ten university I graduated from having a specific room in the frat house where they would take all of the piss-drunk party girls and have their way with them. (A good friend overheard a dining hall conversation where two members of the frat were recounting their previous weekends “adventures”.) I wonder how many girls reported those rapes? And that was just ONE fraternity that appeared to have gotten quite nasty and organized with their sexual philanderings. 

    For every horrible crime, there will be someone out there to exploit it. That doesn’t discount the horrible nature of the crime, nor should we work our worldview and laws around the individuals who manipulate it.

  • jjramsey

    The reason I wasn’t gritting my teeth as I heard that misogynist jibber-jabber was that my jaw dropped as I was listening. I’m not sure if he was a nut or a troll.

  • Whatever

    I hit like on this drivel by accident, can I take it back?

  • Whatever

    Crud, I mean to fool’s drivel, sorry Ian, my iPhone really screws up nesting xp.

  • Stephanie Van Dyk

    Your last paragraph is spot on. Spot on! I agree that this is an issue fraught with emotion, bad stats, bias and so on. But there are solutions – closed courts, for one, are something I think has tremendous promise in a) encouraging more victims to come forward and b) making sure the  defendant is not socially ruined if they aren’t convicted/the allegations aren’t true.

  • If you follow that statistic to its source, it comes from a 2005 DoJ study.  That’s not to say that government agencies are infallible by any means, but she didn’t just spin it out of whole cloth as you’re implying.

  • Regarding the video:

    (“99% of rape accusations are false”) && (“rape is physically impossible”)

    Does not compute.  What’s the truth value of that other 1%, Mark?

  • Seriously. How could someone be so sure rape is impossible without firsthand attempts?

    Likewise, maybe we should assume he is responsible for 99% of rape claims in his neighborhood.

  • These anti-women’s rights groups make me sick. They may not be able to live out the Mormon policies toward vertical propogation, or taking over the world through their babies, but they’re still trying in spirit.

  • I’m going to ignore the 99% of rape reports are false claim since that’s quite obviously nonsense and go with that it’s impossible to be aroused under those conditions. While it’s true that extreme stress (fight or flight) inhibits the sexual response not everyone finds the same situations stressful.

    The very existence of the BDSM community shows that situations most people would find stressful can be a huge turn on. By the way I am NOT saying BDSM is equivalent to rape AT ALL, the #1 rule in BDSM is consent. However it is a form of sexuality that involves activities which most people would find very stressful yet a large number of people find them sexually exciting.

    It’s not a stretch to think that some men would be aroused by a woman who was unwilling, to get off on that feeling of power and control. Not to mention plenty of rapes occur in which the woman doesn’t struggle either because she is too afraid or has been incapacitated in some way, in those situations the stress potential wouldn’t be very high anyway.

  • Anonymous

    One problem that could arise from prosecuting a woman for a false rape allegation could be like this one story I heard off the news once where this one girl was raped by someone who worked in a juvenile court, and then, she was put in jail for 12 months for a “false police report” when she reported the rape.

    Link is here: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/11/10/2010-11-10_furor_over_sex_raps_probation.html

    “He raped one 15-year-old while she waited in the courthouse basement
    for her case to be called. The victim wound up getting 12 months in
    prison for filing a false police report.”

    How many women who get charged with lying about rape may be women who were truly raped but could not prove it in court?  Who knows, but in any case, plenty of Muslim-majority countries do just this by punishing women who couldn’t prove their rape cases in court with committing “adultery” and face jail time or in some cases death.  I agree with suing for defamation, which isn’t much different than suing for libel, but not criminal charges.  I don’t know.  Considering how hard it is to even charge rape and be believed, I’m a bit wary of prosecuting people for lying.

  • jqb

    Is that you, David Byron? Even your own cherry picked study says “Certainly, our intent is not to suggest that the 41% incidence found here be
    extrapolated to other populations”. Even if you’re right about everything, no one here is going to believe you because of your attitude.

  • Ian

    Yes, let me be clear I was talking about scientific studies into incidences related to rapes. 

    There’s a whole separate (and I acknowledge more important) issue about what legally can be done to make rape a crime that can be prosecuted successfully. IANAL, so I don’t have anything but a general feeling of injustice to contribute to that discussion.

  • Ian

    I think you need to go back and actually read what I wrote. Clearly I didn’t agree with your bizarre view of the world (one which I find rather repulsive, to be honest), but I think my point was rather more general than you seem to think.

    The NCVS report is another data point. But again until there is a consistent scientific methodology, it is very difficult to do any kind of meta-analysis to see which surveys are sound and which are outliers. 

    It wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that a lot more than 60% of rapes go unreported to the police. Maybe its less (I struggle to think how it can be, 60% seems pretty low to me, given the social and legal framework in which rape is currently placed). 

    But right now, you have to be pretty darn sophisticated to understand what the data is telling you. If you start with the numbers, you’re probably going to get it wrong.

    Aside from the science, on a personal note, it seems clear to me that if there is even a *possibility* of one of the most serious crimes being under-reported to that extent, we should as a society be treating it with a damn site more priority than we are. The legal side is priority, of course, but I’d say a lot more funding needs to go into basic social science research on this.

  • There can be only one!

  • CatBallou

    “People who falsely claim rape are often not punished”? OK, that’s a claim you have to back up.

  • CatBallou

    I see that the standards of rational argument are much lower on this new site, Hemant!
    If you’re referring to the Fadayomi case in Sheffield, only ONE man committed suicide, and we don’t actually know why. He wasn’t even prosecuted. And if you search for “false rape claim UK,” you’ll see that women are OFTEN prosecuted for such claims, long before the case under discussion.
    If you just search for “rape suicide,” however, you’ll get countless stories about rape victims who kill themselves.
    But, as usual, “It’s all about the MENZ! Won’t people think of the MENZ!”

  • CatBallou

    I see that the standards of rational argument are much lower on this new site, Hemant!
    If you’re referring to the Fadayomi case in Sheffield, only ONE man committed suicide, and we don’t actually know why. He wasn’t even prosecuted. And if you search for “false rape claim UK,” you’ll see that women are OFTEN prosecuted for such claims, long before the case under discussion.
    If you just search for “rape suicide,” however, you’ll get countless stories about rape victims who kill themselves.
    But, as usual, “It’s all about the MENZ! Won’t people think of the MENZ!”

  • CatBallou

    I read the IPT  article, and it’s hilarious. The author is an unemployed MRA with absolutely no scholarly credentials in this field, his books are self-published, and his rants about “what feminists think” are way off the mark.
    As for the IPT itself, it consists of one person–Hollida Wakefield–who, along with her late husband, was a founder of VOCAL, the very organization that the author promotes in this article. Not exactly disinterested and unbiased!
    Wakefield’s husband, Ralph Underwager (also a minister) made a living as a witness for the defense in child-abuse cases.
    The law-review article about “2%” is interesting as a study in how a single statement can be quoted repeatedly until it becomes “canon,” but it’s irrelevant. Stephanie made no such claim.
    Your reading skills seem to be as poor as your arguments, but your hostility toward women is extremely obvious!

  • Toni

    Only about 3% of reported rapes are false accusations. Usually when charges are dropped it’s because the victim doesn’t was to pursue the case further, which can happen for a multitude of reasons.

    From what I know of Norma McCorvey seems like a deeply troubled woman. For awhile she identified as a lesbian and now claims she has been “cured.” Then of course there’s the fact she has been working with anti-choice groups when she was a big part of the reason abortion is legal in the U.S.

  • Epistemic Pinata

    I’m familiar with Kanin. Actually, I can’t people are still quoting this study. It’s worth noting that it’s not a scientific study; Kanin simply asked how many rape cases were dismissed by police officers in one small community. Also, it was skewed by police procedures (many of which are now illegal): If a police officer made a filing mistake or a woman refused to take a polygraph test, this was labeled as a “false rape accusation.” There is also evidence that some women were intimidated by the police.

    I’m not familiar with the second study, but it doesn’t show up in any of my journal searchers. Perhaps it’s not peer-reviewed?Anyway, it’s not like Kanin’s study exists in a vacuum. There are dozens and dozens of better, more rigorous studies. Usually the percentage is between 2% and 8%.

  • Pinata

    Man, I need to hire a proofreader. That second sentence should read: “I can’t understand why people are still quoting this study.”