ONTD Political

Forcing more impoverished rape victims to give birth: a top Republican priority

10:33 am - 01/28/2011

The House GOP's Plan to Redefine Rape

Drugged, raped, and pregnant? Too bad. Republicans are pushing to limit rape and incest cases eligible for government abortion funding.

— By Nick Baumann

Fri Jan. 28, 2011 3:00 AM PST

Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.

For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)

Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents wouldn't be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.

There used to be a quasi-truce between the pro- and anti-choice forces on the issue of federal funding for abortion. Since 1976, federal law has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. But since last year, the anti-abortion side has become far more aggressive in challenging this compromise. They have been pushing to outlaw tax deductions for insurance plans that cover abortion, even if the abortion coverage is never used. The Smith bill represents a frontal attack on these long-standing exceptions.

"This bill takes us back to a time when just saying 'no' wasn't enough to qualify as rape," says Steph Sterling, a lawyer and senior adviser to the National Women's Law Center. Laurie Levenson, a former assistant US attorney and expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, notes that the new bill's authors are "using language that's not particularly clear, and some people are going to lose protection." Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes. "There are a lot of aspects of rape that are not included," Levenson says.

As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18.

The bill hasn't been carefully constructed, Levenson notes. The term "forcible rape" is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill's authors don't offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of "forcible rape," making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.

The main abortion-rights groups despise the Smith bill as a whole, but they are particularly outraged by its rape provisions. Tait Sye, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, calls the proposed changes "unacceptable." Donna Crane, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, says that making the "already narrow exceptions for public funding of abortion care for rape and incest survivors even more restrictive" is "unbelievably cruel and heartless."

"This bill goes far beyond current law," says Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a co-chair of the congressional pro-choice caucus. The "re-definition" of the rape exception "is only one element" of an "extreme" bill, she adds, citing other provisions in the law that pro-abortion rights groups believe would lead to the end of private health insurance coverage for abortion.

"Somebody needs to look closely at this," Levenson says. "This is a bill that could have a dramatic effect on women, and language is important. It sure sounds like somebody didn't want [the exception to cover] all the different types of rape that are recognized under the law."

Nick Baumann covers national politics and civil liberties issues for
Mother Jones' DC Bureau. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on twitter. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. Get Nick Baumann's RSS feed.

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suzermagoozer 28th-Jan-2011 05:22 pm (UTC)
i c u, claimin' to love America, but h8in Americans.

salienne 28th-Jan-2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
Absolutely repulsive.
salienne 28th-Jan-2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
No, seriously, why is this really obvious hatred of women even acceptable enough to be introduced to Congress? How is our country at a place where women matter this fucking little? Where control of women's bodies and a complete lack of any fucking compassion is all but the fucking law of the land?

I fucking cannot.

ETA: The text of the bill:

The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion--CommentsClose CommentsPermalink

(1) if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest;

What the fuck is this shit.

Edited at 2011-01-28 07:34 pm (UTC)
urban_stoop 28th-Jan-2011 05:26 pm (UTC)
wrestlingdog 28th-Jan-2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
LOL, so many GIF-worthy moments in TSN.
huntertp3 28th-Jan-2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
This enrages me beyond belief. How someone could ever support it is beyond me.

Hosted by imgur.com
bellonia 28th-Jan-2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
I agree with angry punchy dude.
cyranothe2nd 29th-Jan-2011 06:51 am (UTC)
I see John's annoyance and raise one very angry Mycroft.
ladydragon543 ...28th-Jan-2011 05:29 pm (UTC)

This is disgusting.
oddityangel 28th-Jan-2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
So only 'rape-rape' is covered. Good to know.
nikoel 28th-Jan-2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
I'm sure though if the woman was drunk, wearing a short skirt, walked in the dark alone or knew the rapist, it wouldn't count as "rape-rape" even if the rape was forcible.
felicitea 28th-Jan-2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
Fuck that. Rape is rape.
lemorttoussaint 28th-Jan-2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
Holy fucking shit. This is beyond appalling.
notacrnflkgirl 28th-Jan-2011 05:33 pm (UTC)

fuck this shit
chaya 28th-Jan-2011 05:51 pm (UTC)
Don't forget blackmail.
iolarah 28th-Jan-2011 05:36 pm (UTC)

*ahem* Sorry. No.

edited for embiggening

Edited at 2011-01-28 05:36 pm (UTC)
chaya 28th-Jan-2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
These men do not know what the hell they are talking about. I have so much vitriol for people like this. Just... ugh.
eversofar 28th-Jan-2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
Everyone who supports this is a rape apologist piece of shit.
chaya 28th-Jan-2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
starsinshapes 28th-Jan-2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
I refuse to believe this is happening in real life, real time.
akisawana 28th-Jan-2011 05:38 pm (UTC)
There is so much wrong I can't even start.
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