This is really scary. From Nick Bauman’s article:
With this legislation [the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”], which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption [which would allow federal funds to be used to pay for abortions in cases involving rape or incest] be limited to “forcible rape.” This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith’s spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old’s parents wouldn’t be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn’t be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.
And there is more:
The term “forcible rape” is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill’s authors don’t offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of “forcible rape,” making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.
It’s a good thing that, as the Editor’s Note says, House Republicans responded to “an onslaught of outside pressure” by deciding “to remove the controversial forcible rape language” from the bill, but that the question of that language should have arisen in the first place is deeply, deeply troubling. It’s one thing to disagree on whether taxpayer moneys should be used to pay for abortions – not that this disagreement does not have profound consequences on the real lives of real men, women and children, but especially women and children – but it is quite something else to try to roll back the definition of rape and re-eastablish, re-enshrine, male heterosexual entitlement so that a woman’s saying “no” is not enough to hold responsible and accountable for raping her a man who disregards that no, whether he uses force or not.
“The term ‘forcible rape,’” the article points out,
is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill’s authors don’t offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of ‘forcible rape,’ making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.
As Laurie Levenson, a former assistant US attorney and expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, puts it:
This is a bill that could have a dramatic effect on women, and language is important. It sure sounds like somebody didn’t want [the exception to cover] all the different types of rape that are recognized under the law.
In other words, it sounds like the people who wrote this bill were trying to move US law a little bit closer to the only logical conclusion to which the anti-choice position can ultimately lead, which is that it is irrelevant how a woman’s pregnancy occurred. Since the life which began with that pregnancy is, according to this position, a fully human and fully innocent life, then there ought to be no exception which would allow the ending of that life through any form of outside intervention. If trying to enshrine that idea in the law is not an open declaration of war on women’s sexuality and bodily autonomy, I don’t know what is.