Republicans drop “forcible rape” but war on women continues


Republicans have backed off their effort to redefine rape as "forcible rape," after even some of their own members asked: Is there another kind of rape? But they have not given up their war on women's reproductive rights.

HR 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," introduced Jan. 20 by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., tried to further restrict federally funded abortion coverage (primarily Medicaid) by limiting it only to victims of what the law defined as "forcible rape." This spurred a firestorm of outrage. Even some Republicans were taken aback. One GOP aide said removing the wording "would be a good idea, since last I checked, rape by definition is non-consensual," Politico reported.

Smith announced Jan. 27 that he was dropping the "forcible rape" wording and replacing it with language from the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions except for cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother's life. But the essence of HR 3 remains the same: entrenching and expanding curbs on women's right to make their own reproductive decisions.

The Hyde Amendment is renewable every year and has been renewed annually since it was first passed. The original amendment flatly banned federal funding for any abortions After a wide outcry from women's rights advocates, the exemption for rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances was added in 1977. Now Republicans, feeling empowered by their electoral gains last November, are trying to chip away at those exemptions, add further restrictions on abortion and make those restrictions permanent by adding them to the health reform law.

They retreated on the "forcible rape" redefinition, but they are pressing ahead in other ways.

Rep. Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican who is a cosponsor of HR 3, has added new language to his "Protect Life Act," HR 358, amendment to the health reform law, that would allow hospitals or any health care provider to refuse to provide emergency abortion care, even if the woman's life is at risk.

HR 358 is similar to one Pitts cosponsored with Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak during last year's health care debate, that would make it almost impossible for private health insurance to cover abortions.

By adding the new language, Pitts' amendment now also contravenes a 1986 law passed by Congress, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, enacted to ensure public access to emergency care regardless of ability to pay.

Under the 1986 law, a patient with an emergency medical condition who goes to a hospital participating in Medicare must be provided stabilizing treatment regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. That could include abortion care for pregnant women. The impetus for the law was to halt a practice known as "patient dumping" - hospitals or other health providers dumping onto the streets, or onto public facilities, patients too poor to pay.

Evidently Pitts and his supporters are happy to dump low-income women in crisis pregnancies out onto the streets.

Pitts, a prominent member of the House's anti-choice Pro-Life Caucus, now heads a House subcommittee on health. Speaking at the National Organization for Women annual conference last summer, Lois Herr, who ran against Pitts in 2010, called him the "poster child for what the ultra-right is trying to do to us."

"They don't want to control the rich," she said, but they "want to control almost everything we do with our bodies."

Donna Crane, policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice America and a long-time activist for women's reproductive rights, told talkingpointsmemo she has never seen anti-abortion bill as brazen as Pitts' bill in attacking the requirement for treatment when the health of the mother is at stake. She called the bill "really out there."

Pitts and his supporters claim it's all about protecting health care providers' "conscience."

Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, sent a letter to Pitts backing his amendment. Catholic bishops are also supporting the measure.

Another bill, the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, HR 217, introduced Jan. 7 by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., would cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood clinics and other health providers that offer abortions. Planned Parenthood, which provides family planning, birth control, and preventive care to millions of women, is specifically targeted in Pence's bill.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Planned Parenthood has also been targeted by a "sex trafficking" video hoax linked to the right-wing extremist group Live Action.

NARAL, Planned Parenthood, NOW and other advocates for women's reproductive rights are mobilizing to defeat the anti-choice bills. Many emphasize that the GOP measures particularly hurt low-income women who depend on federally funded programs to obtain health care and family planning assistance.

Their view was summed up Erin Mattson, NOW's vice president, at last year's conference: "You cannot talk about women's rights without the right to choose and access safe, legal, affordable abortion."

Photo: Fibonacci Blue CC 2.0


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  • This has nothing to do with reproductive rights, it has to do with them demanding that others pay for their promiscuity and completely takes the responsibility off of them. I fully believe that is completely foul. Birth control is furnished for so many - even if they really can pay for it themselves. If they do not know that the sex they are carelessly having may lead to pregnancy, then the sex ed at school is not teaching the bare necessities. (no pun intended)

    Posted by JP, 12/03/2011 11:18pm (4 years ago)

  • Women have had their own reproductive choices for some time now, it's called birth control. If they decline the choice of birth control, they have chosen to allow themselves to get pregnant.
    Next, as a rape victim myself, I was able to overcome that trauma even back in the early 80's when women were still blamed for 'letting or encouraging' it to happen. What I haven't gotten over is the abusive boyfriend who bullied and threatened me into having an abortion, yes ladies, this happens everyday of every year to tens of thousands of women. Why don't you stand up for these women who want their babies but have no where to go? Even the abortionist doesn't council the woman of permanancy of this choice vs: the doctor who councils the man on the permancy of his vasectomy! Nor did the abortionist ask if anyone was pressuring me or threatening me; if was MY choice!
    Sometimes I think all you women ever care about is protecting abortion, not women. Planned parenthood is a wonderful example of not caring if a 13 year old was molested by an adult male. Just get an abortion, collect the money and close the door behind you!
    As an ER RN, I also see women who come in with uterine infections and hemorrhage. The say that when they went back to the abortionist, they were told that the abortionist is" done with them, go to the emergency room".
    No other specialist would do this! EVER. They would be at the hospital, or if they had no privileges, they at least would communicate with on staff physicians.
    Where is the real love and protection of women; it's not in the abortion industry!

    Posted by Diane , 03/30/2011 1:52pm (5 years ago)

  • This is a good, informative article. I have believed, for my entire adult life, that if a woman can not make her own decisions about reproduction, she has no rights. I will encourage all of my friends and colleagues to resist the Hyde Amendment, and all other measures, to curb women's dignity by restricting this most fundamental human right. Bravo, Susan Webb!

    Posted by Anna Bates, 02/10/2011 11:20am (5 years ago)

  • Good on you Webb! Very thorough coverage of a major problem!

    Posted by jim lane, 02/09/2011 11:56am (5 years ago)

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