A House Republican majority bill seeking to change abortion laws is controversially redefining rape. Federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions using Medicaid have always included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and 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 John Boehner has now dubbed a top priority, reportedly contains provisions to the term “rape” in order make it more difficult for women to use state money for abortions. Introduced by Chris Smith, this legislation proposes that the rape exemptions be limited to “forcible rape,” which has no clear meaning outside of this bill. According to a report in Mother Jones, this provision would rule out federal assistance for abortions stemming from “non-forcible” statutory rape. The bill also proposes that federally funded abortions for incest victims be permitted only if the incestuous woman is under 18.
On Friday, Donna Crane, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called the bill “unbelievably heartless and cruel,” noting that public funding of abortion care for rape and incest survivors is already restrictive. But Democrat Daniel Lipinski, a co-sponsor of the bill, said today: “The language of [the bill] was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape.” It seems to be doing just that, but he claims “the legislative process will provide an opportunity to clarify this should such a need exist.” Oh, what? Okay. Lipinski said he will reexamine the issue as the bill moves forward. Hopefully the terms “heartless and cruel” will make him reexamine the bill pretty closely.