House Republicans Want to Change the Definition of Rape

OK, this is too much. If you need any more convincing that Republicans are just plain evil, check out this story at Mother Jones on the GOP’s new plan to limit funds for abortion.

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.)

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.

Unbelievable!! Don’t these people have any human decency? Are they so brainwashed by their fundamentalist religions that they are incapable of empathizing with a young girl who has been impregnated by her own father and could die if forced to give birth?

And get this, there is no definition of “forcible rape” in the bill. So who decides what “forcible” means? Many states do not have an official definition of “forcible rape,” so it could be that no woman in those states could qualify.

It sounds like overt violence has to be involved in order for the House GOPers to certify that the woman or little girl can get funding for an abortion. Under this policy, according to Mother Jones, women who have been date raped, women who have been drugged and raped, and women who are taken advantage of because they are drunk or have cognitive disabilities would not meet the requirements.

If this bill passed, what would it do to public perceptions about rape. Before the women’s movement rapes were hardly ever successfully prosecuted. It was assumed that women “asked for it”–they were wearing the wrong clothing, or they acted in provocative ways. If the police thought the women didn’t fight hard enough, her case might not even get to court. For years a battle has been waged to change public perceptions around rape. But now we may be taken back to square one.

It’s really hard to believe that so many of these right wing Republicans claim to follow Jesus’ teachings. This bill is the product of heartless, cruel people with sick minds.

25 Comments on “House Republicans Want to Change the Definition of Rape”

  1. Linda C says:

    This is our putrid moment

  2. Fredster says:

    empathizing with a young girl who has been impregnated by her own father and could die if forced to give birth?

    I’m not sure how she could die (I’m not a woman either) but there is this:

    ‘(1) if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest; or

    ‘(2) in the case where the pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the pregnant female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

    Looking at the bill I can’t see where there’s any definition of “forcible rape”. (in the eye of the beholder?) What happens if a woman is drugged and then raped? Is that forcible since she’s been drugged and you would think it would be against her will?

    Thank God we’ve still got the Senate.

    You can read the bill here and vote that you oppose it if you have an opencongress account.

    • Sima says:

      What happens if a mentally ill woman is raped? My sister probably wouldn’t ‘fight’. She wouldn’t know what the heck was happening to her.

      Does a mentally ill woman have to have a child because the state can’t fund her abortion? Who the HELL is going to take care of the kid then? Bohnerella?

    • purplefinn says:

      Thanks for the link, Fredster.

    • bostonboomer says:


      Childbirth is always dangerous, and especially for young girls. An 11-year old girl would generally be in danger from childbirth. Childbirth is more life-threatening than abortion.

  3. Minkoff Minx says:

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention BB. This is so disturbing, on so many levels. I can’t even think of something to write. Putrid is a good word for this Linda. How, in 2011 can this even be a topic for discussion.

    • Fredster says:

      If any of those male congress-critters were in jail, in the shower and got to know bubba extremely well, I wonder if *they* would consider that forcible rape and what criteria would they use to say it was?

  4. Woman Voter says:

    OK, I need to go to a very large forest and just SCREAM!

  5. Branjor says:

    Is the restriction of the definition of rape to forcible rape only for purposes of this antiabortion bill? If so, as only females get pregnant and might need an abortion, then the restriction of the rape definition applies only to females, including children. Why don’t they get it over with and just out and out legalize rape of females, and females only?

  6. Sima says:

    What is is about our country and abortion? Why are we like the Taliban when it comes to this issue and not like the English, or Germans, or French, or god help us, the heathen Swedes? Or Italians, or Spanish, or…

    Sheez. Riots, I tell ya, Riots.

  7. mjames says:

    It’s all semantics. To me, “forcible” means “without consent.” Period. If a woman is drugged, that’s not consent. If she isn’t old enough to consent, then there’s no consent. If she’s mentally disabled, she can’t consent. Thus, the sex is “forcible,” legally speaking. What a farce. And a waste of time, especially as Egypt today could well be the US of A tomorrow – or, more likely, in 5 years.

  8. Gadfly says:

    From Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Appendix A to Part 99 ( (a) Forcible Rape (Except Statutory Rape). The carnal knowledge of a person, forcibly or against that person’s will, or both; or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his or her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity (or because of his or her youth).

    This is a federal definition, straight from federal administrative law. If someone is drugged they likely fall under either prong. If someone is mentally incapacitated or handicapped they clearly fall under the second prong if for some reason the first is unavailable. The idea that because a state lacks a definition for “forcible rape” then no rape could qualify is entirely laughable and shows a clear lack of understanding of the judicial system we operate under.

  9. dakinikat says:

    Critics say that this would not only redefine rape, it would disallow government assistance for non-forcible sexual assaults, including many statutory rapes. A lack of consent, the political action organization, states, is the definition of rape, not “bruises and broken bones.”

    “I don’t know how anybody could suggest that there is any rape that is acceptable. I just think it sends a very clear message direct from the heart of the Republican party to women in America about exactly how Republicans feel about women,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz, a Florida Democrat who said H.R. 3 is “nothing short of a violent act against women.”

  10. dakinikat says:

    We’re being subjected to what seems a concerted effort to tell us that are sources are wrong and that we’re over-reacting to this story. It appears to be a troll effort to confuse people on this effort.

    None of this is coming from the members of this blogs–including at least one commenter above–that are lawyers.

    We will not let obvious subterfuge posters plant hit and run memes here. I’m posting a few of the recent main stream newspapers reaction to this attempt to restrict women’s access to health care.

  11. dakinikat says:

    From the SF Chronicle:

    The latest legislation is a doozy, considering that it seeks to both limit abortion access and to redefine rape. It’s an outrageous attack on women’s rights that should be voted down in both the House and the Senate.

    Current law allows federal funds (usually for Medicaid) to be spent on abortions only for women who have been raped or are the victims of incest. We think those restrictions are bad enough, but the new class of House Republicans want more. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would outlaw the use of federal funds for abortion except in the case of “forcible rape.” The incest exemption would only apply to minors.

    “Forcible rape” doesn’t have a legal definition, but in general the idea is to exclude pregnancies that result from date rape, statutory rape or rapes that happen when women are physically incapacitated.

    We have no idea why this bill’s sponsors feel the need to additionally insult women by suggesting that only “forcible” rape is real rape, but there’s nothing about this bill that deserves passage.

    Read more:

  12. dakinikat says:

    From CBS:

    But the provision of H.R. 3 that has drawn the most widespread criticism from advocates of abortion rights is one regarding the exemption of pregnancies resulting from rape. The bill exempts a woman from the Hyde Amendment limitations only if she has become pregnant as the result of “forcible rape.”

    Critics argue that specifying the terms of rape as “forcible” in the legislation qualifies as a redefinition that excludes other forms of sexual assault – including statutory rape, which Mother Jones writes is often non-forcible.

    In an interview with Hotsheet, Democratic Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz called the bill “nothing short of a violent act against women.” She equated denying federal funds to a rape victim with the “hijacking of a woman’s independence.”

    “I don’t know how anybody could suggest that there is any rape that is acceptable,” she said. “I just think it sends a very clear message direct from the heart of the Republican party to women in America about exactly how Republicans feel about women.”