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#DearJohn: They Can See Us. Now They’ll Hear Us, Too.

“A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the people,” quoth Speaker of the House John Boehner, thereby permanently confirming many a suspicion that he is not all that bright. In fact, American voters are concerned about the same thing they’ve been concerned about for the past three years, at least: Job loss, going broke, and the craptastrophe that is our economy. Not John, however! He’s decided that HR3, the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act,” is “one of our highest legislative priorities.”

Which means that one of his highest legislative priorities is denying medical care to rape and incest survivors. The bill seeks to codify the Hyde Amendment, which already restricts public funding for abortion so severely as to make it basically useless for the vast majority of low-income people, and to pass this into law. However, UNLIKE the Hyde Amendment, it doesn’t observe the long-standing truce between anti-choice extremists and rape survivors: Instead of holding forth, as even the rightfully-loathed Hyde Amendment and Stupak-Pitts Amendment have, that funding shall be made available for pregnant rape and incest survivors, it would only provide funding for survivors who have been “forcibly raped.”

Which, as you know, is a tiny, tiny minority of survivors. 70% of rapes are “non-forcible.” Rapists consciously seek out people and situations where they’ll have to use a minimum amount of “force”: They don’t want to get caught, and they’re cowards, so they prefer people who are already drugged, weak or unconscious. They groom their victims, isolate them, and use the minimum amount of force necessary to terrify their victims into compliance; their main weapons are fear, coercion, and the vulnerability of the victim. Under this bill, you don’t count if you were drugged, you don’t count if you were sleeping, you don’t count if you were coerced, you don’t even count if you were molested, because statutory rape doesn’t count under this bill, either. And if you’re an incest survivor? You don’t count if you’re over 18.

It is absolutely unacceptable for the government to minimize rape and attack rape survivors this way. It’s disgusting. It’s unconscionable. It’s not just about abortion; it is passing rape apologism and rape culture into law. We’re all familiar with the attitude that rape only “really” counts if someone jumps out of the bushes with a weapon and physically tortures, beats, or maims you in addition to raping you; that’s a big part of what this clause is about. This sets a terrifying precedent that takes us back to the days when the law wouldn’t define your rape as a rape unless you’d demonstrated “utmost resistance,” meaning that you’d risked your life to get into a physical fight with someone who already wanted to rape you, and wouldn’t have a problem with hurting you really, really severely to get that done. We cannot let this stand. It’s not something on which there can be any compromise, ever, at any time.

Oh, but good news, because even if you’re not a survivor, or just a decent person who doesn’t believe we should be attacking, disrespecting, and ripping government protection away from the majority of rape survivors? The rest of the bill is going to hurt you, too. Let us count the ways!

1) It targets the most vulnerable survivors and people. OBVS. The attitude toward abortion, even in the days when it was illegal, was that exceptions could be made for the rich and privileged. If you had the cash, someone could probably put you in touch with a doctor who could make this happen, safely, quickly, and off the radar. The people without money and connections, the people who died by being disemboweled in “vacuum” abortions, or bled to death using coathangers or other sharp objects, or killed themselves or broke their own bones by jumping down flights of stairs, or burned their insides or poisoned themselves by taking unsafe and potentially lethal chemical douches or potions, were often poor people or people of color, or simply very young people who didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. In other words, the very people who will be most affected by this bill. This bill, which makes abortion most impossible for low-income people, is economically discriminatory and racist, and seeks to take us back there. It preserves and strengthens a hierarchy of access to medical care that benefits only the most privileged people in America. Making abortion illegal or impossible to access doesn’t stop people from getting or seeking abortions. It only endangers, harms, and kills the most vulnerable members of society. We are REQUIRED, as feminists, as citizens, as PEOPLE, to speak for them.

2) And if you are lucky enough to be insured, good news! This bill hurts you, too. It would make it impossible for the insured to deduct abortion as a “medical expense” on their taxes. This not only disincentivizes your insurance company to cover abortion in the first place, it’s a push toward a world where we no longer recognize abortion as a medical procedure in the first place.

3) It codifies and strengthens “conscience” clauses. Meaning that your doctor can just straight-up refuse to provide you medical care, laying the Hippocratic Oath to waste at will, because of their, ha, “conscience.” No matter what your circumstances are, no matter what your funds are, they can just refuse to do their job. And if you want to get a sense of how that works in practice, here’s one example: In 2000, I was kicked out of a clinic in rural Ohio, and told to “keep my legs closed” by a doctor. Because I’d asked for the Morning-After Pill. Codifying “conscience” clauses doesn’t just harm women who need abortions; it harms any person who might need any form of contraception in his or her lifetime.

We cannot let this stand. This is an attack on survivors, on women, on the poor, on anyone who stands to conceive, and on anyone who stands to be sexually assaulted: It is really, really, really fucking far from “the will of the people.” It’s just culture war, pushed by a group of people with ties to an extremist, openly anti-survivor, anti-choice movement that doesn’t reflect the opinions, the beliefs, or the values of most Americans. 71% of Republicans don’t support this bill: That’s how far from “the will of the people” it is.

But, although we can’t let this stand, we also can’t just be outraged about it on the Internet. It’s essential that we make the huge public opposition to this bill as visible as possible: That’s why we’re Tweeting at Boehner and others at #DearJohn. But we also absolutely have to make sure our representatives hear us in person. It’s the beginning of the work week. And that means that all those Congresspeople need to hear from us, on the freakin’ phone, until they get the message that their jobs are going to be very, very hard until they acknowledge the massive public opposition to HR3. We need to reach out to the people who might stand for us, like the Victims’ Rights Caucus and the Pro-Choice Caucus, to applaud them for standing up for us and to ask them to make defeating this bill a crucial mission. We need to put massive amounts of pressure on the people who clearly don’t stand with us, like Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, whose bill this is, and all of its co-sponsors, particularly those (male) few who happen to be Democrats: Our party is not allowed to sell out to those who deny medical care to survivors and attack people who need abortions, ever. We need to reach out to the Ways and Means Committee, which is currently handling this bill, and which has one — ONE! — Democratic woman on board. We need to reach out to Shelley Berkley, that one Democratic woman, and ask her to be our champion.

Click on this, and it should take you to a page where you can find out exactly who your rep is, and what their contact information is. Look that person up on Wikipedia, to get a sense of who they are, if you don’t already know. Then, CALL THEM. Be polite; be professional; do not threaten or use violent or abusive language under any circumstances. Explain to them that their constituents don’t support this bill, explain how and why it’s a bad bill, and let them know that if they support or fail to oppose this bill, they can expect that to impact them in a very bad way when it comes to the matter of keeping their jobs. We hired them; we can fire them. We want to flood them with calls, today and tomorrow. We need to stand up and be counted. And we can. But we need to make sure they don’t just see us talking on the Internet. We need to make sure they hear our voices, one by one by one.

29 Comments

  1. ShortWoman wrote:

    Ok, I did it. Since my Congresscritter is Dr. Joe Heck, I made an appeal to his experience as an ER Doc.

    Who’s next??

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  2. MikeV wrote:

    OMG. Congresscritter <3

    I'm writing an article for my school's paper. Hopefully there's an ounce of activism in these college kids.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  3. Maxine wrote:

    I’m not an american, but you have my passionate support. this is intolerable for all people, all over the world.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Lynn wrote:

    This seems like pure troll behavior on the part of the Republicans doing this…I’m baffled to see any democrats taking part.

    I am sort of pleased to see that Ayotte is not on the list. Apparently you can be an anti-abortion republican *without* being batshit evil.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  5. Maine Character wrote:

    Well said. Two of my college girlfriends had been raped on drugs. It stunned me that a guy could even think of that.

    It stuns me almost as much that Boehner can think such a ruthless, uncaring bill is what our people need.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  6. Em wrote:

    Can I ask how people go about calling? I’ve done it before, but only to say, “I (don’t) support Bill X. Thank you and goodbye.” Do you write a spiel and read it to the staffer who answers, do you ask to leave a message…how does this work, exactly?

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink
  7. The Chemist wrote:

    My congressman is pro-choice with high marks from NARAL. I know he’d vote right without writing him. I still wrote him to ask him to confer with his other congressmen and particularly those Democrats who’ll actually vote yes. Basically I asked him to do some things behind the scenes outside the voting chamber.

    Meanwhile I’ve linked this blog for background and the HoR site for people to find their reps. I’ll tweet about that when I’m not tweeting about Egypt and cats and stuff.

    Oh- and I think this might be my first comment here. Hi!

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  8. Palaverer wrote:

    Here’s a list of ways to find and contact your representative, John Boehner, or Nancy Pelosi, as well as links to Sady’s phone script and various letters people have written.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  9. LSG wrote:

    Here’s what I do on telephone calls…

    First of all, I remind myself that it’s their job to answer the phones and talk to constituents, and remind myself that they won’t yell at me. (I reeeeeally hate being yelled at. And talking on the phone.)

    If I think I’m going to get flustered (probably yes), I write out a short script for myself.

    When I call, I say something like, “Hi, I’m LSG, on of Representative X’s constituents, calling about the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Bill, which the Congressman is co-sponsoring.” [Remember, sometimes you will know more than the staff person answering the phone.]

    They’ll say something like, “Yes,” or “What’s your position on that,” or “Yes, we’re getting a lot of calls about that” — something innocuous.

    Then I make my four sentence pitch. My Rep. is conservative, so I use buzzwords like “personal responsibility” and “government interference” and “burden on small businesses” — no idea if it helps, but I figure it’s worth a shot.

    Then they’ll just say something like “Thank you for your input, I’ll be sure to pass that on.” Occasionally I’ve had them say something like “The Congressman is really just concerned about taxes,” or something to sooth the savage constituent, and then I try to politely point out that they are wrong.

    For me it’s always really scary, but it gets less scary the more times I do it because I realize that generally I know what I’m talking about as well as the staff person. And also, that they’re paid not to yell at me.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Permalink
  10. LSG wrote:

    Sorry for immediate second comment, but just wanted to say — this morning, I called my Rep’s office and instead of stating my position I asked what his reasoning behind sponsoring a bill with this vile forcible rape language was, and what he was planning to do about it. The asking things seemed to throw them off, because the staffer answering the phone took my number and had someone slightly higher up call me back. He didn’t really have any answers, but I made my pitch against the bill again, and hopefully was enough of a nuisance that it sank in a little.

    (If anyone’s interested, he just said they were oh-so-thankful that I’d brought this to their attention, and they would go consult Rep. Smith about it instantly. Color me skeptical. I called Rep. Smith’s office, too, and they said they would not respond to anything on the phone, but they would snail mail “comments” to any of his constituents who were concerned.)

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Permalink
  11. Em wrote:

    LSG, that was really super helpful. Thanks. :)

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  12. Laurennmcc wrote:

    Berkley is actually my Congressperson, and I am organizing myself and some other members of the Feminist Drinking Club here in Vegas to reach out to her. I know she does a lot with UNLV and the Women’s Center, so I’ll try and get some action going. Thanks for pointing this out Sady.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
  13. Emmy wrote:

    My rep is on the ways and means committee, so I just wrote what I hope was a coherent email on the little “contact your rep” form asking him to stand against it. What, er, exactly does the ways and means committee do? I feel a bit silly for asking.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Permalink
  14. Rose LeMort wrote:

    Leave it to an upper class white Christianist man to decide what is right for women-folk. I wrote my representative and asked him not to support this bill. On a personal level I have no love for abortion, but I fully believe in keeping it safe and legal.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 3:57 am | Permalink
  15. k not K wrote:

    FUCK, just realized that my female, Republican congresswoman is a co-sponsor of this fucking monstrosity. Time to make some phone calls!

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 4:10 am | Permalink
  16. iiii wrote:

    Emmy –

    The Ways and Means Committee does money. Taxes, tariffs, and entitlement programs go through Ways and Means. It’s a plum committee assignment.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink
  17. Lucy wrote:

    I wrote to my representative last night via Planned Parenthood, but I fattened up their form letter with exactly what “forcible rape” means and the details about conscience clauses. Luckily my rep is a female Democrat who’s pretty serious about empowerment of women and especially youth, so I have no doubt she doesn’t support this in the slightest. Still, though, I’m glad I wrote. This shit is dystopian.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink
  18. Siobhan wrote:

    Sady, this just in, Lipinsky appears to be caving a bit on the rape language at least: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/02/from-the-right-radio-silence-on-rape-redefining-abortion-bill.php

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink
  19. TheSasquatch wrote:

    This distinction between forcible rape and for instance drug rape is just so fucking random I don’t even know how to respond…

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  20. Joy wrote:

    I don’t tweet, but have sent a message to my rep: PA-Doyle. A rather long, carefully worded email via his website was my chosen path. He, like many, will need to understand how this is NOT about abortion, it’s about coercion and fake morality. Luckily I’m in a city where he actually knows he has a very high pro-choice constituency and caught a LOT of flack during Stupak-Pitts, as it should be.

    Tangentially: Sady, I continue to consider you a hero. I am generally politically aware, but you make me a better person and give us all strength. Thank you.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  21. Siobhan wrote:

    And Rep Wasserman Schultz called this bill a violent act against women: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/02/wasserman-schultz-gop-rape-violent-women/

    Word is getting through.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  22. marginally on topic wrote:

    I am appalled at this attempt to disenfranchise rape survivors. It is disgusting.

    I also think that if selling the morning after pill offends you deeply, that “pharmacist” is probably a poor career choice; “conscience clause,” when applied to the distribution of contraceptives, is a fancy way of saying “my morals trump your morals.”

    Rape Crisis Scotland recently produced an ad showing the idiocy inherent to rape apologism. I thought it was an awesome piece of satirical public education. It’s probably too Feminism 101 for this site, but I’m linking it anyway just in case people want to see it or like it enough to spread it around the innertubes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h95-IL3C-Z8

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  23. XtoZ wrote:

    If you write out your letter in old fashioned pen and ink it goes straight to the desk of the congressman/woman.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink
  24. “Be polite; be professional; do not threaten or use violent or abusive language under any circumstances”

    How?

    I live in NJ-04 – Chris Smith is my representative. He (or someone on his staff) _wrote_ that language. I don’t know how to avoid abusive language without failing to state my case.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink
  25. Sady wrote:

    @Daniel: That’s a really good question. I’ve used a script for talking about it with opposition. The tactic I use is to outline exactly which parts of the bill are bad, concisely, let the representative know that most Americans don’t support these extremist positions — in his case, I’d point out that 71% of Republicans don’t support the bill — and that they won’t overlook it when it comes to the polls, and say something like “I’m hugely disappointed that Chris Smith doesn’t represent the interests of the rape and incest survivors who are his constituents and voted him into office. Perhaps in the next election we’ll vote for someone who hasn’t made an attack on our human rights.” Then thank the office representative for their time, and hang up.

    All you need to do is say that it’s a bad bill, why it’s a bad bill, and that constituents won’t support a politician who backs it. That’s all. They’ll mark it as a negative comment on HR3. But they’ll MARK it, which they probably won’t do if you just yell that someone is an asshole — in that case, they’ll write you off. And they’ll characterize the opposition as death-threat-screaming, abusive fringe types and thugs, not concerned citizens, which makes it easier for them to ignore us. Actually, you’re in a special position, because the person you have to talk to is so central to this, and it is MORE important that we not be emotional or abusive in our calls to his office. Make sense?

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Permalink
  26. Barbobaggins wrote:

    My Rep. is Bobby Schilling. He also believes that healthcare reform should be repealed and public schools defunded. Neither belief stopped him from going to public school himself, taking congressional health insurance, nor using said programs to help support his ten children. Because actually funding his huge family without the support of the tax-payers would have been dreadfully unfair for him. He doesn’t even live in my district! I contacted him with a very dry, respectful, and factual letter and have received no response as of yet. Are there any fellow IL 17 residents here, or people like Rep. Schilling who aren’t residents but are willing to meddle in our affairs, willing to help me ask him to explain why his personal religious beliefs should inform policy while ignoring the reality of rape in the US?

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink
  27. Well, I started with a letter to the editor at the local paper. I think I kept myself civil, though I clearly need to work on brevity. I think I’ll interact with Mr. Smith’s office in writing rather than on the phone since I seem to be better able to avoid ranting that way. (what I sent is at http://dtm.livejournal.com/39731.html)

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink
  28. Feminema wrote:

    Here’s my open letter to my congressman (who, of course, is on that list of co-sponsors):

    http://feminema.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/action-against-h-r-3-abortionrape/

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  29. Lora wrote:

    This bill, this very idea is appalling and punitive to the most vulnerable survivors.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink