GOP Anti-Choice Bill Includes Revision that Redefines Rape – by Discounting It

Trigger warning

Has someone from the GOP been talking to Naomi Wolf?

Have you been drugged and raped? Raped while unconscious? Raped by your uncle? Apparently according to the GOP House, this isn’t really rape. Mother Jones reports:

For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption 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.)

[...] “This bill takes us back to a time when just saying ‘no’ wasn’t enough to qualify as rape,” says Steph Sterling, a lawyer and senior adviser to the National Women’s Law Center. Laurie Levenson, a former assistant US attorney and expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, notes that the new bill’s authors are “using language that’s not particularly clear, and some people are going to lose protection.” Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes. “There are a lot of aspects of rape that are not included,” Levenson says. (Emphasis mine)

The National Network of Abortion Funds points out the sad reality that it’s already pretty damn difficult for women to even get abortion coverage after being raped (although it doesn’t make this bill any less harmful):

[W]hat happens today when a woman or girl who has been sexually assaulted seeks Medicaid funding for abortion in one of the many states that pay only in the case of rape/incest or life endangerment? The reality is that she is almost always denied coverage for the abortion.

In some cases, state Medicaid officials simply assert that they never cover abortion, either because they do not understand the rape/incest exception or because they do not believe in assisting women and girls with abortion under any circumstances. In other cases, the burdensome paperwork requirements on the part of the woman needing assistance, the police, and doctors ensure that payment is never made – or will never come in time for the woman to obtain an abortion. In still other cases, the reimbursement from the state to abortion providers is so low that clinics no longer choose to go through the complicated and rarely successful process of seeking coverage.

The truth is that there is no real Medicaid exception for poor women and girls who have been raped or victimized by incest.

So what’s your damage, guys? Boehner? Smith? Because all this does is make it all the more obvious of exactly how anti-woman your agenda is. Shame on you all.

Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    And then they’ll justify the decision by saying it holds down costs and saves money.

  • Rachel

    So, because the word “no” can’t escape my mouth it’s not rape? Being a woman who was raped I can say pretty honestly that during the assault I found that I wasn’t really capable of speach. I was crying out and trying to get myself out from under him, but I don’t think I was actually capable of saying anything.

    And I feel like “forcible rape,” is actually a pretty broad term. In this context I would take it as some guy beating you or something like that. But isn’t having sex with someone who is incapacitated also a pretty foreceful thing to do?

  • Kirsten Nichole Ray

    Rachel, it’s definitely rape. It is so clear that these people are anti-woman. How can they have no sympathy for women who have been victims of rape or incest? What is their damage? Seriously?! Rachel, I was in a similar situation when I turned 18. I had a fragmentary blackout of the event and I don’t remember everything. I struggled for a year and a half, keeping it to myself, so uncertain if what happened was rape. I kind of tried to blow it off, but then it came back and really knocked the shit out of me. I also could not get out a “no.” I do remember thinking it, but for some reason, the words wouldn’t come out, I don’t know why. But I was shaking so bad. And I remember throwing my guts up a few times. And what kind of sick guy wants to do that to a girl that’s been throwing up and is totally wasted?

    Anyway, my point is that just because there is no verbal “no,” that doesn’t make it okay. When you consent to something, it should be a “Yes! I want to do this!” kind of thing. And according to the U.S. Department of Justice, rape is defined as (graphic):

    “An event that occurs without the victim’s consent, that involves the uses or threat of force to penetrate the victim’s vagina or anus by penis, tongue, fingers or object, or the victim’s mouth by penis, whether attempted or completed.”

    Force doesn’t should not mean “beaten” or “held at gunpoint.” And how dare they say that certain acts are not rape, when YES, THEY ARE. Whatever kind of rape it is, it’s wrong. Even if the girl has been drinking, taking ecstasy, dancing topless on the table, whatever… that still doesn’t make it okay for someone to assault her.

    The reasoning of these people and their logic is just absolute crap. Just crap.

  • honeybee

    I’m confused about how being drugged before being raped isn’t forcible rape. Even by the proposed definition this is still clearly forced. Are we sure this isn’t counted???

    (I’m not trying to discount the horrible bill, it is horrible, I just want to know exactly how horrible it is).

  • chelsa

    Well the difference is obvious: one rape, there’s a victim, and all of those others kinds of rape…. well, she was probably asking for it and carrying your rapists baby is an adequate punishment.

    /end sarcasm

    MAN! These people make me want to pull my hair out. It’s bullshit tactics like these why activists burn out so hard. No matter how hard you work, this is always what you’re up against.

  • Katie Johnston

    The most terrifying aspect of this bill is that if it goes into effect, it will undoubtedly have an impact on the legal definition of rape. If women can only get funds for abortions that are the result of rape, lawyers can begin to argue in rape trials that certain acts aren’t rape since they aren’t covered by the bill. It’s disgusting.

    • TD

      I can’t see this making it past a senate subcommittee, but federal government decision for medicaid funding has no application in a state criminal trial.

      Far more concerning is that the Department of Justice’s refusal to bring the Uniform Crime Reporting system in line with state law definitions of rape, because there is evidence that this influences prosecutions. Not so much in court where such a line of argument would be tantamount to a lawyer asking for nullification, but in the investigation of incidents, where police attempt to make it appear like they’re doing their job, by only focusing on the crimes that the DoJ releases statistics on.

  • Jenny

    This is fucking beyond disgusting. I don’t even feel comfortable posting *online* the expletives that have just poured from my mouth.

    “MAN! These people make me want to pull my hair out. It’s bullshit tactics like these why activists burn out so hard. No matter how hard you work, this is always what you’re up against.”

    No fricking doubt. Halfway through reading this post, I’m plotting the ways I can convince my boyfriend to move to another country with me. I’m usually a very understanding person of people whom I disagree with but I have to say- everyone who supports this bill is not just a piece, but a HEAPING pile, of thoughtless, inconsiderate, unrealistic SHIT for which I have no patience.

  • jss



    We cannot allow this shit to pass.

    Could someone who knows these things please, please, PLEASE post a link indicating how to we can fight this bill–who we need to email bomb, who we need to call incessantly, etc, etc?

  • Matt

    “The most terrifying aspect of this bill is that if it goes into effect, it will undoubtedly have an impact on the legal definition of rape.”


    President Obama has veto power, and the Democrats in the Senate have the power to keep bills from getting voted on (they just need 50 + Biden), so unless they can’t figure out what’s going on or they totally their spines, this bill is just for show (just like the health care repeal bill). Considering that the Democrats possess a pretty clear moral argument here, it is hard to see them pay a price for it.

    The place where Democrats may run into trouble is if such a measure gets buried in an omnibus spending bill, but the Senate should still be able to pass a similar bill without the measure and get it removed entirely through reconciliation.