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UPDATE: The Republican assault on women now focuses on the definition of rape

February 3, 2011

Scroll to the bottom of this article for a timely update on this story from Talking Points Memo

There is a particular mantra we have heard from the Right over the past couple of years – get out of my business! They, with the Tea Party have rallied against the Obama administration, citing numerable instances of what they see as government over reach – the Health Care bill springs to mind, which of course has seen hilarious instances of Tea Party protestors with signs declaring “hands off my medicare” – even though medicare is government-run anyway.

Now with the GOP in control of the House, we have seen over the past few weeks, the wheels of progression assaulted as they attempt to roll back anything and everything the Obama administration has put forward, regardless of whether they agree with it in principle.

This despite the overwhelming numbers of unemployed and the fact that they were elected by the people to do something about job creation – guess it’s not really a priority!

So what is?

Well if you are part of the blogosphere, twitter etc, you have probably seen a story about the GOP’s latest intrusion into your life.  Shocked? Not really, because despite what they say and have been saying for the past two years, they are more than happy to interfere in your life if it suits their agenda.

Republican Chris Smith, has put together a bill which MoveOn.org calls “a far-reaching anti-choice bill” which looks to redefine rape.

Yes really, the GOP want to redefine the terms of rape as if it isn’t hard enough already for rape victims to gain justice for the vile misdeeds they have had to endure.

The bill, H.R.3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act seeks to redefine the definition of rape to only include “forcible rape.” To verify, the part of the bill which is causing the most consternation is:

‘The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion–

‘(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; or

‘(2) in the case where the pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the pregnant female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

This led Washingon Post‘s Jonathan Capehart to label it as the “scary part” of the bill.  He goes on:

Forcible rape‘? The very concept is offensive on its face. How is that even defined? There is no definition in the bill. Maybe I’m a do-gooder liberal who fell for the whole “no means no” mantra of my childhood. Or that rape isn’t sex, its violence.

So in instances of “statutory or coerced rape”, then it’s not rape anymore, at least according to Chris Smith.  For example, as Mother Jones highlights:

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.

Jason Linkins from the Huffington Post went further:

What’s off the table? Well, if you are a woman coerced, drugged or otherwise incapacitated by a rapist, too bad! Also, if you are a young child, statutory rape is off the table, too, unless incest is involved. (The incest exception lapses for adults, crazily.)

Yes, so if you are the victim of incest after the age of 18, then sorry you must have the baby, which makes me wonder, what the GOP would say to the daughter of Josef Fritzl who was locked in a basement, raped repeatedly and made to carry and bring up their offspring?

Steph Sterling, a lawyer and senior adviser to the National Women’s Law Center, wrote a piece on their website and said:

“H.R. 3 would allow federal funding for abortion only in circumstances where the woman could prove that she was the victim of “forcible” rape, taking us back to a time when just saying no wasn’t enough.”

The GOP know that it is going to be hard to go after abortion as such so instead they are attempting a back alley attempt to redefine the terms in which abortion may be funded by the state and then in their overreach, impose a tax penalty on anyone else. As Steph Sterling continues in her article: “The bill would also impose tax penalties on individuals and small businesses with insurance plans that include abortion.  That’s right.  Tax penalties.  As in, people with insurance plans that cover abortion would have to pay higher taxes than people whose health plans don’t.”

However the major problem despite the attempt to use taxes – wait I thought the Right were against taxing people and using taxes to overreach into people’s lives – is the attempt to redefine rape and the way they are doing it without carefully constructing what the Bill means by “forcible rape”.  As law.cornell.edu points out, the law does not define forcible rape and neither do the creators of the bill, which I might add, is supported by 173 legislators – for the most part Republicans, but there are a handful of Democrats who are supporting this bill too. Which means this leaves the legislation open to interpretation, which as we all know could and most likely will, see injustices being committed in law.

Donna Crane, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America said that the Bill is “unbelievably cruel and heartless.”

So how prevalent is this? Because it would seem the GOP want to redefine rape to stop on overuse of the excuse of rape to get an abortion (GOP logic not mine).  Well Time Magazines, Swampland Blog sheds some light here:

How does a woman go about getting Medicaid funding for an abortion if she’s been raped? …Is it just a matter of walking into an abortion clinic, declaring you’ve been raped, and getting a check from Medicaid four weeks later to cover the cost of the abortion?

Not exactly. Eligibility rules under the Hyde exceptions differ by state, but many states are like Tennessee, which requires a doctor to certify that “there is credible evidence to believe that the pregnancy is the result of rape” and to attach “documentation from a law enforcement agency indicating the patient has made a credible report as the victim of incest or rape” before Medicaid will consider issuing payment for an abortion procedure.

So that scourge of false rape reports–or even, let’s say, “non-forcible” rapes? It doesn’t exist. I couldn’t find numbers more recent than 2001, but these shocked me. In that year, the total number of abortions covered by Medicaid was 56. That’s all abortions for cases in which the mother’s life was in danger, the pregnancy was a result of incest, or in the case of rape.

So exactly where and why is there an attempt to change this and in effect wrap rape up in so much bureaucracy and definition changes that a crime which is already under-reported becomes that much more so and the possibility grows that more women may suffer from having to carry a child to term, that although not the fault of the child, why should a woman bear her rapists child to term?
Yet to Speaker of the House John Boehner, this is a brilliant bill that he absolutely stands by and thinks this is important enough for his attention. He claims this is a “top priority”.  What’s that John, deaf to the cries of “we want jobs” and instead go on a little crusade instead?

The GOP, has  long been against abortion, even in some cases, if the pregnancy is a result of rape – see Sharron Angle’s “lemonade” equivalence; “I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.”

So to me it is no surprise that they find a way to start to limit abortion by going after a very vulnerable group of people who need help, not a bunch of people up high, who are supposed to make Bills which protect out rights, instead working hand over fist to do their utmost to screw people over even more so.  Jessica Wakeman from thefrisky.com in her op-ed writes that “this bill is just about politicians posturing as being anti-abortion.” I’m inclined to agree with her.  The bill as she notes has “no hope of succeeding” but still 173 members of the legislative branch are pushing it through?  Why? Appealing to their base?  I would suspect so. After all the GOP are seen as the crusaders against abortion.

Laurie Levenson, former US attorney and now an expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in LA says that “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.” And with the way the term “forcible rape” is being used in this bill as an accepted term, but a term which as I pointed out has no legal definition, and possibly many interpretations on how it fits, it seems to be a Bill that not only has far-reaching consequences in terms of overreach on taxes, but has far-reaching consequences for people who look to their government to protect them.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FLA) blasted the bill as “a violent act against women” and called the attempts to redefine rape as “absolutely outrageous.”

Speaking to Raw Story she says:

“It really is — to suggest that there is some kind of rape that would be okay to force a woman to carry the resulting pregnancy to term, and abandon the principle that has been long-held, an exception that has been settled for 30 years, is to me a violent act against women in and of itself…Rape is when a woman is forced to have sex against her will, and that is whether she is conscious, unconscious, mentally stable, not mentally stable”.

Her stance, and may I say she is the first high-profile representative to speak out against it, mirrors a campaign Moveon.org have mounted in which they state:

As far too many women know, bruises and broken bones do not define rape – a lack of consent does.

This bill has the potential to be very dangerous for women who have fought long and hard for rights for choice and to not be treated as second-rate because of the actions of another individual. And from a party that have spent the past two years rallying loudly against what they see as overreach from Obama, well to me this smacks of out-and-out hypocrisy – but then when I mentioned this Bill to a friend, they said “Republicans right”.

By the way, Moveon.org have set up a petition to fight against this bill.  You can find out more and sign it by clicking their logo below:

UPDATE: There has been a development in this story:

From Talking Points:

Report: Republicans Give Up On Redefining Rape

After pressure from women’s groups, Democratic politicians and Jon Stewart, the authors of the controversial abortion bill in the House will drop language that appeared to exempt some rape victims from seeking federal help to pay for an abortion.

Politicoreports this morning that Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the lead sponsor of the bill and chair of the House pro-life caucus, will remove the phrase “forcible rape” from the bill and replace it with the same wording used in the Hyde Amendment. That Amendment bans federal abortion coverage already, and proponents of the House law say their goal was to make Hyde — which has to be renewed every year — a permanent fixture of federal law.

“The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment,” Jeff Sagnip, a spokesperson for Smith, told Politico. Smith’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TPM.

However as many on the Twitter #dearjohn campaign are pointing out#HR3 still bans insurance coverage of abortion for all & makes it inaccessible to poor women-we will keep fighting til it’s gone!”

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