House Republicans' New Definition of "Rape-Rape"


In case anyone needed more reasons to oppose the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortions Act,” here is another one: It would limit the rape exception for Medicaid-covered abortion to “forcible rape.” That means statutory rape or “date rape” wouldn’t count.

The act seeks to make the Hyde Amendment, barring Medicaid funding for abortion, permanent. Mother Jones’ Nick Baumann looked closely at the act, spearheaded by Rep. Chris Smith, and noticed something rather odd: The inclusion of the word “forcible,” before the word “rape” for the current rape exception. Some context:

There used to be a quasi-truce between the pro- and anti-choice forces on the issue of federal funding for abortion. Since 1976, federal law has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. But since last year, the anti-abortion side has become far more aggressive in challenging this compromise. They have been pushing to outlaw tax deductions for insurance plans that cover abortion, even if the abortion coverage is never used. The Smith bill represents a frontal attack on these long-standing exceptions.

To define rape narrowly as “forcible rape,” Baumann points out, could take statutory rape or rape during mental incapacitation or while intoxicated off the table. “This bill takes us back to a time when just saying ‘no’ wasn’t enough to qualify as rape,” a lawyer at the National Women’s Law Center tells him.

Still, the language is sloppy and doesn’t correspond to federal criminal code definitions. And in practice, very few abortions are paid for by Medicaid under the exception for rape, incest, or danger to a woman’s life. According to Guttmacher, in 2006, the last number for which we have data, the total number of women nationwide whose abortions were covered under federal Medicaid under to the rape exception was 191. (177,213 abortions were covered under state Medicaid programs, some of which have less restrictive policies and will cover abortion for reasons of the woman’s health or fetal abnormalities.)

And House Speaker John Boehner may have designated the bill a priority, but there’s still a Democratic majority, however thin, in the Senate, and a pro-choice president. Still, no matter what the bill’s future, it shows how the goalposts are moving in anti-choice politics — further and further into restriction access to abortion care to the women who need it.

The House GOP’s Plan to Redefine Rape [Mother Jones]
Related: Public Funding for Contraceptive, Sterilization and Abortion Services, FY 1980-2006 [Guttmacher]
Earlier: House Republicans Frantically Race To Restrict Abortion
Fun Facts About How Poor Women Are Denied Their Reproductive Rights

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