UPDATE: As proof that advocacy matters and citizen voices can and should count, the sponsor of the bill has removed the questionable language and replaced it with the language in the existing Hyde amendment that has been preventing tax dollars from paying for abortions for decades (which still makes this bill duplicative and silly but less harmful than it could have been). Thanks to everyone who stood up for women!
When the new Congress was seated last month, they promised great things for the economy and jobs. GREAT things. Miraculous things! A chicken in every pot, a paycheck in every bank account, a Birkin bag on every shoulder! Hallelujah and amen!
So how are they doing so far?
Well, the Senate took forever to agree on new rules relating to procedure so they’ve done all but nothing. The House has been a busy bunch of bees, though. The first bill they passed is called, and I’m not making this up Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. Which is not only a sophomoric title but also verging on a grammatical catastrophe. They’ve also passed bills to provide flags flown over the Capitol for Medal of Honor recipients, which seems like a no-brainer not requiring a law but what do I know? And they want to eliminate public funding for presidential elections. Ok. I didn’t know that was a big deal but whatever. I’m sure its all part of some master-magic-wand-job-making plan.
What could be next in line? What is the blueprint for job-making legislation? What kind of groundbreaking economic brilliance is going to shine like a beacon from the Capitol dome? How is this Congress preparing to meet the economic challenges of the modern era?
I don’t know. They haven’t told me.
But they are taking steps to make sure tax dollars don’t pay for abortions. Not that tax dollars have ever paid for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. That law has been on the books for decades. And it’s not like we ever had a tax-dollar slush fund that anyone seeking an abortion could tap for assistance. No, the times there MIGHT be tax dollars behind an abortion is in cases where the woman is on Medicaid, which is federally funded. I don’t know the stats on how many abortions Medicaid pays for but it’s probably not a substantial part of the overall budget for the nation. So, this isn’t a cost thing, is a principal thing. Maybe the wrong principal to be focused on when they’re all supposed to be tackling unemployment but ok. I get it. There have always been grandstands in politics. And this law, on its surface, actually shouldn’t change existing policy all that much so I’d usually be inclined to sniff haughtily at the guys who are pushing it and concentrate my personal advocacy efforts on other things.
But this new bill, which was named by the same people who named the health care repeal bill and is called No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, has some troubling language in it. In particular this passage:
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.
Basically, this is the exemption language that states the cases in which it is acceptable for tax dollars to pay for abortions. And the phrase that is generating outrage is “forcible rape”. Not statutory rape. Not rape by coercion. Not rape through use of drugs. Forcible rape and only forcible rape.
Can we…as a nation…as a SPECIES…not qualify rape? Rape is rape. Rape is sexual intercourse wherein one partner is not consenting. Rape involves force, coercion, drugs. Rape is rape. There is no more rape-like rape or borderline rape or “it’s only in your head” rape. There is rape and the ensuing havoc is wreaks on the raped individual.
So you can just take that word “forcible” right out of the statutory language being proposed here because we don’t want there to be any rape litmus tests, now do we? We don’t want women staggering to the emergency room, shaking off the effects of being drugged and raped the night before and have to tell them, “No, honey, we’re very sorry but that’s not a good enough rape story so you can’t have Plan B pills because some people consider them abortion and you’re uninsured and the tax payers don’t want to help you not get pregnant by the rapist who raped you only he’s not really a rapist and he didn’t really rape you and best of luck pressing charges!”. We don’t want that, do we? DO WE?
I sure as shit don’t. And I sure as shit don’t want a young woman, a woman below the age of consent, a TEEN-AGER, who was coerced into sex by a much-older man to have to carry a resultant pregnancy to term. I don’t want a woman with mental disabilities who is not competent to consent and who is abused by a sexual predator to have to carry a resultant pregnancy. I don’t want there to be anything this ambiguous on the law books because I don’t want the vagueness and loop-hole-ness of it to bleed into criminal proceedings where a sadistic jackhole can get off on a rape charge because he “just” got a woman too drunk to say no but didn’t leave any bruises on her.
Rape is rape. End of story.
This bill is so frustrating on so many levels because it just shows SUCH a disregard for women’s safety. You probably won’t be surprised to know that of the 173 co-sponsors on this bill, 164 of them are men and, to the best of my knowledge, NONE of them have ever been raped. And probably most of those men have never even worried about being raped. Their mothers probably never sent them off to college with the admonition “Don’t ever let anyone else pour you a drink because you never know what someone might put in it. You could get raped.” They probably never asked a security guard to walk them to their car after work for fear of being raped if they walked alone. They probably didn’t arrange to call a girlfriend at a specified time after a date with a new guy to assure the friend that the guy didn’t turn out to be a rapist. Rape is largely a women’s fear and a crime committed by men. Maybe, just maybe, men shouldn’t be in charge of defining it under force of law.
I don’t like this bill on reproductive rights grounds and I like it even less on grounds of giving women legal protections against sexual violence. I’ll be writing to my Representative telling him to oppose it. If you think rape is always rape, you can do the same by visiting www.house.gov and finding your Member of Congress or by signing this petition at MoveOn.org to tell Congress that no means no.