Republicans Redefinning Rape

Since the GOP won the House majority in the midterm elections, their three immediate focuses were to repeal Obama’s healthcare plan, renew the Bush tax cuts, and target abortion. In the past, federal government has covered the cost of abortions for women whose lives are endangered due to pregnancy, minors who are victims of incest, and of course rape victims. However, two pieces of legislation recently proposed by Republican congressmen Chris Smith of New Jersey and Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania are questioning the definition of rape. Smith’s legislation, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (or H.R. 3) called for the term “rape” to be changed to “forcible rape.” This would mean that persons impregnated outside the category of “forcible” rape would be denied the use of federal funds for abortion. The change in terminology would exclude women who have been drugged or date-raped, women who are mentally unstable or unfit, and women who show no signs of an assault.

Pitts’ legislation called for the elimination of any federal funds going toward abortion. It would also allow hospitals the right to deny an abortion to a woman whose life is in danger due to complications of pregnancy. Another component of Pitts’ legislation banned insurance policies from covering abortions, even though more than 85 percent of them currently do.

Georgia representative, Bobby Franklin, wants the term “rape victim” to be changed to “rape accuser.” Statistically speaking, more than half of rape and sexual assault charges go unreported, so a small percentage of attackers ever get convicted of their crimes. Under Franklin’s proposed legislation, those “accusers” whose attackers are not convicted, cease to be “victims.”

The GOP has long been an opponent of abortion, but these new restrictions to health coverage have been viewed by many as a threat against women’s rights. And fallout has been so bad that GOP members have recently backed down from their battle. “The word ‘forcible’ will be replaced with the original language,” conceded a spokesman for Smith.

(Originally posted March 12, 2011)