H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, as introduced would ban the use of federal funds for abortion, with exceptions for “forcible rape,” incest or if the woman’s life is in danger.
Current federal law, in place since 1993 and commonly known as the Hyde amendment, allows for exceptions in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the woman.
The new distinction of “forcible rape” from other forms of sexual assaults has been roundly criticized by leading Democrats and abortion rights groups. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., announced Thursday he would drop the modifier “forcible” so that the exemption covers all forms of rape, as well as cases of incest and the endangerment of the life of the mother.
Gardner supports the change, said his spokeswoman, Rachel Boxer.
"The intention was never to change the definition of rape. Rep. Gardner added his name as a co-sponsor because he believes in banning taxpayer subsidized abortions," Boxer said.
Smith's office issued a written statement that said: "To avoid any confusion and to expedite the effort to permanently prevent taxpayers from being complicit in abortion and abortion coverage, we are restoring the text to reflect the exceptions for rape and incest included in the Hyde amendment."
Gardner, R-Yuma, was among 173 co-sponsors, mostly Republicans, when Smith introduced the bill Jan. 20.
"Can you imagine telling a victim of date rape – or another form of sexual assault – that they don't just count as rape survivors because it wasn't so-called ‘forcible rape?’” the abortion-rights group EMILY’s List said in a statement. “Well, with this H.R.3 bill, that's exactly what (Speaker) John Boehner and the GOP wants to do: tell these women that they're not victims of a crime or deserve the resources they need to deal with their trauma.”
The current restrictions on federally funded abortions resulted in only 191 abortions paid for with Medicaid money in 2006, the most recent data available, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which researches sexual and reproductive health issues.
Removal of the word "forcible" is unlikely to reduce Democratic criticism of H.R. 3, which also would end tax breaks available for health insurance policies if they cover abortion services.
"This would be the biggest intrusion on a woman's right to choose in our lifetime. This is not the will of the American people,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus