Why Are Politicians Attempting To Redefine Rape?

The “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” redefines “real” rape as only that which is “forcible” and has been co-sponsored by 173 mostly Republican legislators and was called a “top priority” by Speaker of the House John Boehner. Likely knowing that fully criminalizing abortion is impossible, politicians are going after the funding of abortions in certain cases of rape and incest. Slipped a roofie and raped while you are unconscious? Raped while you are blackout drunk and unable to consent? Sexually assaulted by your uncle at age 19? If you are poor and need governmental funding to help terminate a pregnancy resulting from this horrific acts, there will be no help for you.

I hope your breakfast is sitting well with you, because you’re about to get queasy if you read on. A little background: generally speaking, federal law (The Hyde Amendment) restricts the use of government funding for abortions. However, there are exceptions for rape, incest and health/life of the mother, which means, for example, that a woman who is raped can use Medicaid to pay for an abortion. Now, for no discernible reason other than to posture as being “strong against abortion,” supporters of the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” are taking restricting abortion rights a step further by trying to deny federal funding for some abortions that result from rape or incest that were previously exempted.

The act seeks to define the rape exemption as only “forcible rape,” which is not actually defined in the federal criminal code and which the bill does not specifically define either, according to Nick Baumann at Mother Jones. “Forcible rape” sounds like the stereotype of how we understand “good victims” are raped: a man jumps out of a dark alley on an unsuspecting woman and she’s sexually assaulted. We can all agree that is a horrible scenario. But when there is no definition of what “forcible rape” means, it leaves one to speculate this bill would restrict assistance to women who are not raped via that scenario (“rape-rape,” as Whoopi Goldberg so douche-ily put it). The statuatory rape, for instance, of a “consenting” 12-year-old girl and a 23-year-old, for instance, is not “forcible.” The rape of a woman who is roofied with a drug like GHB and sexually assaulted is not “forcible.” As Tiger Beatdown blogger Sady Doyle puts it, “According to this bill, you’ve only been through enough if the GOP decides you’ve been through enough. Otherwise, no matter how traumatic your rape was, or how desperately you want or need control of your life and body, you’re fair game.”

The “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” also limits the funding of abortion in the case of incest if the victim is over the age of 18. (Because, you know, if you are raped every single day of the year when you were 17, then magically the day you turn 18 it becomes less horrible.) That means incestuous sexual assault at the hands of a father who rapes his traumatized 19-year-old daughter whom he has been raping for six years is not “forcible.”

Let’s get back to why politicians are doing this. We know that if people genuinely believe that life begins at conception and abortion is killing a human, or a soul, or whatever, then they will try to restrict abortion any way that they can. But as Doyle points out, according to the Guttmacher Institute, only about 20 percent of abortion patients report using Medicaid to pay for abortions. Considering that only 22 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, we are not talking about huge numbers here. Is it reeeaaally that important to Speaker of the House John Boehner to tell a couple hundred poor women that they can’t use Medicaid to pay for an abortion that resulted from getting raped while she was blackout drunk and unable to consent because it wasn’t technically “forcible”?

Apparently so.

To me, this bill is just about politicians posturing as being anti-abortion. The bill likely has no hope of succeeding, according the The Atlantic Monthly, in part because redefining some rapes as “rape-rape” and some rapes as “not-quite-rapes” is so controversial. So why did 173 of our elected representatives who co-sponsored the bill even bother? Because if you need to show your street cred to your home district, saying you voted for the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” sounds good. It’s playing politics. Nevermind that there are real women and girls affected by rape and incest every day. Nevermind that a lot of people believe the government should look out for the most vulnerable members of our society — like, say, a rape victim who lives below the poverty level. This bill is playing political football with women’s lives and frankly, it’s disgusting.

[The Atlantic Monthly]
[Mother Jones]
[Guttmacher Institute Facts on Abortion]
[Tiger Beatdown]