Well, hey there! What a beautiful Saturday afternoon it is! The sun is shining, the air is clear, the slush on the sidewalk is a sparkling shade of Pollution Beige, and OH LORD NO WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS:
Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.
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.
Yep, you got that right! The job-focused, tax-focused economy-building new Congress is getting started right away, with a bill to… deny health coverage to rape survivors.
Oh, but, you know, that only applies the rape survivors who just don’t count. Meaning the majority of rape survivors. Under this new bill, the only rape survivors who would be able to receive funding would be those who were able to prove that their rapes involved “force.” If your rapist drugged you, intoxicated you, or raped you while you were unconscious, you don’t get coverage. If your rapist used coercion, you don’t get coverage. If this is a case of statutory rape — that is, if you are a thirteen-year-old child, raped by someone outside of your family — you don’t get coverage. If you’re an incest survivor over the age of eighteen — if, say, years of abuse only culminated in a pregnancy after your nineteenth birthday — you just don’t get coverage. And if you live in a state that doesn’t distinguish “forcible rape” from “rape,” you might not qualify, meaning that no matter what the circumstances of your assault were, well, sorry: You might not get coverage.
That’s a lot of survivors, suddenly deprived of coverage. And no, it’s not a coincidence that rape involving “force” — and remember that proving “force” often means proving an overwhelming and potentially deadly amount of violence; other sorts of force often get swept under the rug — is less common than other methods. This bill would deny coverage to most survivors. That’s what it’s about. That’s what it’s intended to do.
There are already restrictions on the use of “taxpayer funds” to pay for abortion: The Hyde Amendment limits them. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment limits them. But both the Hyde Amendment (in its current, post-1977 form) and the Stupak-Pitts Amendment make exceptions for survivors of rape and incest. The federal funds provided through Medicaid cannot be used cover abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger. The fact is, about half a million women who have abortions each year qualify for Medicaid. And Medicaid only covers around 80 or 90 abortions per year. Of those women, many are probably getting the funding because their pregnancy endangers their lives, not because they’re rape survivors: This big, bold, vital bill is aimed at ripping coverage away from maybe, GENEROUSLY, forty-five people a year. Heck, why not go for broke and say sixty people? Or even seventy-five! WHOA! Staggering numbers, that Boehner and the GOP are targeting here. Clearly, this is a vital target.
But it’s the “except” they have a problem with: That “except” bothers them. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act wants to take that one “except” off the table. It thinks all that compassion we have for rape and incest survivors is a silly idea. Because, you know. What if their rapes really weren’t that bad?
They’re coming for the abortion funding, and the first thing they’re doing is breaking the long-held taboo that says, whatever else you do, don’t come after the rape survivors, they’ve been through enough. According to this bill, you’ve only been through enough if the GOP decides you’ve been through enough. Otherwise, no matter how traumatic your rape was, or how desperately you want or need control of your life and body, you’re fair game. Having had your right to consent to sex violently ripped away, your right to consent to pregnancy and childbirth can now be ripped away as well.
And yes, of course: If you care at all about the right to choose, the bill is already reprehensible, just on its face. It deprives low-income women of much-needed financial aid for their abortions, when their chances of getting it are already vanishingly slim. It targets the most vulnerable people in our society, and deprives them of much-needed control over their family planning, their lives, and their finances, which they need to survive and keep afloat. Oh, and bonus for the rest of us: Even if you have insurance, this bill might make it impossible for your insurance to cover an abortion. It’s just not okay, any way you look at it.
But this, the part where we decide whose rapes matter and whose rapes don’t, and seek to pass into law a radical redefinition of rape that just so happens to erase the vast majority of rape survivors, is horrifying. Instead of maintaining that rape is always rape, that there’s no such thing as a “minor” or “excusable” rape, the GOP is putting forth a bill that says some rapes are so very minor and excusable as not to warrant consideration. Making this attitude law — any law, anywhere — sets a truly terrifying precedent. It’s unconscionable.
And you know what we like to do when things get unconscionable.
That’s right, kids: It’s time to make the Internet a big, scary problem for some sexists, once again. Our favorite teary-eyed pun-inducing anti-choice lawmaker, John “[BOEHNERS]” Boehner, has dubbed this bill a “top priority” for the new Congress. Which means our top priority is telling him, and all of our representatives, that he’s wrong. Where once there was #MooreandMe, now there is only… #DearJohn.
I’ve been working with fellow feminist writers, activists, organizers, and organizations since last night to get this thing started. The Tweets are already rolling. But you, dear lovely all of you: What could we possibly achieve, without you? Not much, is the answer!
So here’s what is up. Right now, we’re Tweeting at the Boehner — oh, look! Here he is — and at all of our representatives, and we’re going to keep Tweeting, to tell them that this bill is an attack on the rights of survivors everywhere, and that it will not stand. We’re Tweeting to say that all rape is rape. We’re Tweeting to tell them the many ways that this leaves women open to attack and reproductive coercion. We’re Tweeting to tell them that the exemption for cases of rape and incest must stand, and that it must apply in all cases. We’re Tweeting to tell them that we will not support them if they back it, we will not support them if they “compromise” on “just this one thing” — the rights and dignity of rape survivors are never to be compromised, under any circumstances — and they will not be able to push this redefinition of rape forward. We’re the American people; we got them the jobs they have, and if we are unsatisfied with their performance? We can get them oh, so very, very fired.
Don’t know who your representative is? Find them here, along with ways to contact them. Don’t know how to find your representative on Twitter? Use the Google! We’ll be planning other ways to contact these representatives, and to co-ordinate that action: Stay tuned, as always, for exciting action alerts. And, last but not least: Don’t know why getting involved matters? Try this on for size:
They told us we didn’t count. Imagine their surprise when we all speak up, all at once, to tell them that we do.