Proposed Rules on Funding for Abortion Could Chip Away at Women's Rights

New bill raises questions about the current definition of rape.

Posted: 02/01/2011 03:17 PM EST
Filed Under Abortion

Abortion

Now that the House of Representatives is controlled by GOP lawmakers, many of whom ran on campaigns promising to skew the country to the right, Americans had to expect some controversial legislation right off the bat. First it was the motion to repeal President Obama’s health care reform law. Today, it’s this: “The Republican-controlled House is considering new limitations on federal funding for abortion that could be a crown jewel of the GOP leadership's attempt to show its constituents there's a new, socially conservative sheriff in town,” Talking Points Memo reports.

Progressives are, naturally, up in arms about the proposed limits, especially because one of them seeks to—subtly and nebulously—redefine the government’s current definition of “rape.”

Called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, the House bill seeks to make permanent the Hyde Amendment, a law that currently prevents Medicaid recipients from receiving federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's safety is at risk. However, if the law is passed, the way we define rape may change.

Under the bill, federal funding would only be available to pregnant women in need in cases of “forcible” rape. The lawmakers behind the bill haven’t given an exact definition of what they mean by forcible, but Mother Jones speculates that the difference between forcible rape and other rape—to the lawmakers—is that forcible rape is associated with violence. In other words, rapes that weren’t also coupled with brute force—say, one in which a man has sex with a drugged or passed-out woman—wouldn’t count.

The problem, of course, is that, by definition, all rape is forcible. To add the qualifier forcible before the word rape is redundant, and it suggests that some rapes are better than others. This is a very slippery slope to go down, and, if the bill is passed, it could have dangerous consequences for women’s rights in the future.

Unfortunately, none of the Republican lawmakers behind the bill are currently answering questions about what they mean by “forcible,” leaving progressive women to guess in fear.

 

 

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