GOP Reverts to Original Rape Definition--But Is the Fight Over?

All is not well, say those offended by the original proposal

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House Republicans have received a lot of flack lately for the introduction of a bill that attempts to limit eligibility for taxpayer-sponsored abortions to only pregnancies that result from forcible rape. The specificity of the word "forcible" has angered many who point out that non-consensual sex involving a drugged, intoxicated or mentally incapacitated woman as well as sex with someone under 18 may not be considered "forcible" but most certainly fall under the category of rape.

Several pro-choice and woman's rights advocates as well as generally liberal bloggers, lawmakers, and members of the media, including Jon Stewart, have spoken out against this provision since its introduction. Politico reports today that the bill's author, Representative Chris Smith from New Jersey, has decided to drop the word "forcible" so that now "the exemption covers all forms of rape, as well as cases of incest and the endangerment of the life of the mother." While this is decidedly good news for those opposed to the bill's restrictions, Smith's decision has received more skeptical reactions than celebratory ones.

  • A Calculated Move  Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs explains the Republican decision to change the language of the bill as simply: "now that they've been exposed for the heartless bastards they are, they're backing down." But Johnson isn't impressed nor satisfied with this supposed change of heart: "This is a tactical retreat, not a principled one," he says. "You can fully expect Republicans to continue trying to float this kind of anti-choice legislation, because the social conservative wing has decided it's time for the big push to bring America back to the 19th century."
  • A Scheme to Get What They Really Want  Hullabaloo Blogger Digby is also very skeptical of the House Republicans' motives:
I suspect the heinousness of this latest attack is no accident. The conservatives understand the art of negotiation and I think they have put this provision in there for the express purpose of creating a firestorm, drawing the attention of the pro-choice groups and then "reluctantly" giving it up in exchange for the Democrats giving in on all the other, less sexy, changes they really want. Changes which will restrict abortion for far more people throughout the country than this rape redefinition ever would.
  • Republicans Shouldn't Get off Easy for this One Kay at Balloon Juice thinks proponents of the original language in this bill need to be held accountable for promoting such an idea in the first place. "I don't think conservatives and their anti-choice activist allies should be given a pass and permitted to "sidestep" this debate," she writes. "Let's talk about why they tried to get this through, and their position on rape, minors and the health and welfare of women and girls, or, "pregnant females." It must have been pretty damn important to rank right behind repealing health care reform."
  • Get Rid of the Bill Altogether  Alex DiBranco at explains why, "while this is a victory for women, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act still has no place in federal law:
In practice, rape exceptions to anti-choice laws fail survivors because of the difficulty in exercising this right (proving you were raped and all that jazz), so what the proposed legislation will turn into is a total ban on abortion coverage, depriving countless women of the right to make choices about their bodies. Another nasty element of the bill that hasn't grabbed as many headlines yet is that it would undermine regulations requiring all hospitals to provide emergency care to women, including abortion.
  • We Must Keep Fighting Tiger Beatdown blogger Sady Doyle was an outspoken opponent of the "forcible rape" exception to the abortion bill and applauds all who helped get over 1,000 signatures on a petition against it. But, she reminds readers, the fight is not over. "As I'm sure you also know, everything else about this bill is TERRIBLE. And we can't stop here. ... We need to keep mobilized, because this is a big one, and we can't afford to lose."
  • 'A Cowardly Compromise' Wonkette's Jack Stuef offers a sarcastic take on the Republican lawmakers' decision fairly representative of the comic reactions to the issue:
House Republicans have given up their noble battle to change what counts as rape in their latest proposed bill to ban federal funding for abortions (except, as it has always been, in cases such as rape). It’s a cowardly compromise that upsets a proud nation of people who all hope one day they too will be roofied and copulated with and be told it’s not legally rape. But you know how women’s groups are. They see the words “forcible rape” in a piece of legislation and want to ruin the fun of our most creative rapists, those who dare to dream of having a “Sputnik moment” with a woman in the nightclub bathroom.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.