Republicans Redefine Rape, Outraging Liberals

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Currently, federal funds--Medicaid, for example--may pay for abortions resulting from rape or incest. This week, however, House Republicans introduced their latest piece of legislation: the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." According to Mother Jones's Nick Baumann, Republicans want to say federal funding for abortion is only okay in cases of "forcible rape." Pregnancies resulting from statutory rape, in women who were raped while drugged or extremely intoxicated, in mentally incapable women, or in many of the victims of date rape would not be covered under this narrow definition. Abortion-rights groups have lashed out against the new bill's rape provisions, echoing the common liberal reaction found online today.

Like the Affordable Care Act repeal bill before it, few predict the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" will make it past the House of Representatives. Still, "the fact that the bill actually reflects Republican priorities, and will almost certainly pass the House with overwhelming GOP support, speaks volumes," writes Washington Monthly's Steven Benen . Charles Johnson  at Little Green Footballs is not so subtle about his opinion, calling the Republicans that support this bill "inhuman and misogynistic."

Though she writes that "there are so many things wrong with this proposed legislation, I hardly know where to begin," Shakesville blogger Melissa McEwan is particularly disturbed by the provision that does not consider the rape of a drugged, drunk, or mentally disabled woman to be forcible. She argues that this aspect of the bill "gives veto control over terminating pregnancies from rape to the rapist ... at least in cases where the victim/pregnant woman is dependent on government assistance for abortion, i.e. poor women."

Scott Lemieux at the blog, Lawyers, Guns and Money, is shocked by the Republican attempt to redefine rape in order to avoid paying for abortions. He writes:

So merely being forced to have sex without your consent isn’t the same as being raped as far as access to health care is concerned? Can we stop hearing about the Deep Moral Principles of anti-abortion fanatics now? And even more so, can we please stop hearing about how criminalizing abortion is really about protecting women? Can anybody deny that opposition to legal abortion is deeply intertwined with sexism and reactionary beliefs about sexuality at this point?
As an added bonus,this proposal would (in the tradition of the odious Stupak Amendment) not only would deny some rape victims direct funding to pay for an abortion, it would prevent them from using money from a Health Savings Account. It's an outrageous bill, and alas there will be plenty more where this came from for at least the next two years.

Kay Steiger follows up a reaction in The American Prospect  with an additional note on her own blog, in which she points out because proving rape or incest is extremely difficult, "the reality is that most women wouldn't have access to abortion even if these circumstances did apply to them."

Though he admits to being "rather queasy about the whole thing," Outside the Beltway's James Joyner wonders if this proposed bill is really as bad as everyone thinks. He suggests that the rape exception to the no-government-funded-abortions rule is more of a "concession to an emotional issue" than anything because "if one believes a fetus at a given stage of development is a human life worthy of protection by law, the events leading to the pregnancy are irrelevant." He is particularly puzzled by the issue of statutory rape, asking if a pregnancy that results from consensual sex between a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old is "really comparable to one arising from being jumped in a dark ally by a stranger and violated under threat of death? Really?"  In the end, though, he rationalizes that in most of America abortion is legal and isn't going anywhere. Thus, he asks Republicans: "Why attempt to move the bar ever-so-slightly in a direction that most Americans--including your core supporters--are going to find uncomfortable? Especially when you know damned well that you can't actually succeed?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.