25

Twitter screenshot, transcribed below

jessica a. m. @my2k
so the Alabama abortion criminalization bill has an extra tacked onto the end of it wherein, if a woman reports being raped and they find the person she accused not guilty, SHE goes to jail, because it's declared a false rape accusation

Adam Savage @donttrythis
What. The. Fucking. Fuck. (I rarely curse this pointedly on the tweets but this shit just keeps getting darker and darker)

Is there actually such a law in Alabama, either as part of the abortion bill or separately? It's a notable claim, in that it's received comment from Adam Savage, a celebrity, but it seems unlikely, as surely there would have to be a separate court case to actually send someone to prison.

  • 12
    I notice that the question has received a close vote arguing that the claim isn't notable. I can't pretend to be familiar with all the nuances of the scope of Skeptics, but as the notability guidelines say that "being mentioned in the media" or "put forward by a celebrity" imply notability, then this certainly seems to qualify, as it's gotten media coverage. (The AP also notes it's been shared 26,000 times on Facebook, which sounds pretty darn notable.) – HDE 226868 Jul 2 at 1:10
  • The original tweet has been deleted. Seems @my2k realized it was wrong. No correction posted though, AFAICS. – Sebastian Redl Jul 3 at 6:19
  • Link to Savage’s tweet: twitter.com/donttrythis/status/1126678071577325568?s=21 – Andrew Grimm Jul 3 at 8:29
  • 9
    You'd think that the guy from Mythbusters, of all people, would know better than to retweet something without fact-checking it first... – F1Krazy Jul 3 at 9:54
  • 3
    @F1Krazy My God, I didn't even notice that. Oh, Adam, how you have fallen. – fredsbend Jul 3 at 20:34
42

No.

The more I read this claim, the more and more messier I realize it is. The Tweet claims several things:

  1. There is a law in Alabama about false accusation of rape.
  2. That law states that if a person is found not guilty of rape, the accuser is sent to jail.
  3. The law was part of the anti-abortion bill passed in Alabama this past spring.

Only the first of these has any basis in fact; the others do not.

I assume that "abortion bill" refers to HB 314, passed this past spring. HB 314 does not even mention rape in the context of abortion (e.g. a rape victim seeking an abortion), let alone in this completely unrelated scenario. The terms "rape", "sexual assault", or related phrases make no appearance in the bill. The Associated Press wrote an article explaining this, if you don't want to scan through the legislation yourself.

However, as the AP notes, a state legislator did introduce HB 544, though it has not been passed. HB 544 does deal with the case of a false accusation of sexual assault or other sexual offenses. A provably false accusation of rape, sodomy, or sexual torture in the first degree would be a Class C felony; a provably false accusation a of lesser sexual offense would be Class A misdemeanor. The relevant section is:

Section 1. Section 13A-6-72 is added to the Code of Alabama 1975, to read as follows:

§13A-6-72.

(a) A person commits the crime of making a false sexual allegation if:

(1) He or she willfully, knowingly, and with malicious intent, makes a false report of rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, or sexual torture, and whose allegations are proven to be false.

(2) He or she willfully, knowingly, and with malicious intent, makes a false report of rape in the second degree, sodomy in the second degree, sexual misconduct, sexual abuse in the first degree, sexual abuse in the second degree, indecent exposure, enticing child to enter vehicle, house etc., for immoral purposes, sexual abuse of a child under 12, or foster parent engaging in a sex act, etc., with a foster child, and whose allegations are proven to be false.

(b) A person making a false sexual allegation may be liable to the person accused for all costs associated with his or her legal defense.

(c) Making a false sexual allegation pursuant to subdivision (1) of subsection (a) is a Class C felony.

(d) Making a false sexual allegation pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor.

The above section requires the accusation to be made "with malicious intent"; that is, the accuser must be deliberately lying. Someone who genuinely believes that another person sexually assaulted them would not be found guilty under HB 544, regardless of whether the accused was found guilty or not guilty.

It's also worth noting that the Tweet implies that if the accused is found not guilty, the accuser would be automatically sent to jail, and that HB 544 makes no such provision. There's a gray area for some cases, where the accuse could not be proven guilty of rape beyond reasonable doubt, and where the accused could not be proven guilty of making a false accusation beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, condemning the accuser based on a not guilty verdict in a rape trial would violate the principle of innocent until proven guilty (a human right), and the accuser would not enjoy the right to a trial if sent directly to jail based solely on the ruling of whether or not rape was committed (violating the Sixth Amendment).

That said, it's already a Class A misdemeanor in Alabama to make an intentionally false police report; see Alabama's Title 13. Presumably, going to the police and filing a formal accusation of sexual assault would be covered by this existing law. HB 544 would turn some allegations from Class A misdemeanors to Class C felonies.

As HB 544 has not been passed, the claim in the Tweet is false because the proposal was not tacked onto HB 314; moreover HB 544 has not yet been passed and would not do what the Tweet claims.

  • 10
    I'm sorry, what exactly is the complicated part? As the claim is worded, it's plainly false. – fredsbend Jul 2 at 1:56
  • 5
    @fredsbend The complicated bit is that there is legislation that's relevant here but it hasn't been passed, and there is a preexisting law that's related, but none of it is connected the HB 314. – HDE 226868 Jul 2 at 1:59
  • 5
    There's nothing complicated about HB544. As you say, it merely "[elevates false rape accusations] from Class A misdemeanors to Class C felonies." You're being too generous with what's apparently a bald-faced lie. – fredsbend Jul 2 at 2:02
  • 5
    Perhaps add a line or two about the grey area between the accused being found not guilty (e.g. for lack of evidence), and an accusation being proven to be false (i.e., constructed). – DevSolar Jul 2 at 7:33
  • 7
    I think the last sentence muddies the waters a bit. Even if the bill were passed, and part of HB 314, it would still be irrelevant to what these tweets imply. It's all irrelevant, because the laws relate to false allegations not uproven allegations (and a ruling of "not guilty" of rape is not the same as saying "they did not rape them"; which is what would be required to show a false allegation). The entire claim is nonsense because it heavily implies that this situation would for some reason disregard the burden of proof. – JMac Jul 2 at 13:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .