GOP loses 'forcible rape' language
By Jonathan Allen
House Republicans plan to sidestep a charged debate over the distinction between “forcible rape” and “rape” by altering the language of a bill banning taxpayer subsidies for abortions.
The provision in question, written as an exemption from the ban for women who become pregnant as a result of “forcible rape,” touched off a firestorm of criticism from women’s groups, and it gained enough attention to become the subject of a satirical segment on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
But a spokesman for the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), says the modifier “forcible” will be dropped so that the exemption covers all forms of rape, as well as cases of incest and the endangerment of the life of the mother.
“The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment,” Smith spokesman Jeff Sagnip told POLITICO, referring to the long-standing ban on direct use of taxpayer dollars for abortion services.
The fight over the definition of rape threatened to sabotage Republican efforts to highlight their push to end taxpayer subsidies for abortion, and the distinction between types of rape mystified some GOP aides.
“Such a removal would be a good idea, since last I checked, rape by definition is non-consensual,” said one aide.
The underlying bill, which imposes sweeping new restrictions on existing taxpayer subsidies for health plans that cover abortion, has support from a bipartisan group of anti-abortion lawmakers, including several House GOP leaders who attended a press conference announcing its introduction last month.
But proponents have found themselves on the defensive in the last few days over the phrase “forcible rape” and a decision to grant an incest exemption only to minors. Under the Hyde amendment, which is recodified annually in an appropriations law, women who are victims of any type of rape or incest at any age are eligible for federally subsidized abortions.
“The phrase ‘forcible rape’ was abandoned some time ago, and there is some indication that what they would be trying to do is make women jump over an additional hurdle if they want to get an abortion,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) told POLITICO this week.
The bill’s authors, including Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), say it’s not their intent to change the way the exemption is applied.
“The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so,” Lipinski told Talking Points Memo in a statement.
Regardless of the intention, the language became an inviting target for critics, and its potential to hijack the debate over taxpayer subsidies for abortion forced a quick reversal from GOP leaders.
“By proposing this legislation, Republicans are finally closing the glaring rape loophole in our health care system,” the Daily Show’s Kristen Schaal dead-panned Wednesday night — after GOP leaders had decided to change the language. “You’d be surprised how many drugged, underaged or mentally handicapped young women have been gaming the system. Sorry, ladies the free abortion ride is over.”
(To read original article, visit this Politico link.)