With New Abortion Bill, GOP Tries To Redefine Rape

January 28, 2011 12:05 pm ET — Kate Conway

The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a high-priority GOP House bill aiming to underhandedly drive abortion coverage off private insurance plans, is bad enough on its face. The bill, if turned into law, would prohibit tax reimbursements for all medical care obtained via plans that cover abortion — whether or not the abortion provisions are ever used — meaning that the 87 percent of private plans offering some abortion coverage would be forced to either dump that coverage or become inviably expensive.

Yet buried in the law is an even more insidious clause rolling back a previously sacrosanct exception for prohibitions on abortion funding: rape. By specifying that the exception applies only to subjects of "forcible rape," the Republican bill threatens to impose a new definition of what kinds of rape are bad enough to justify an abortion. Here's the relevant section of the law:

'SEC. 309. TREATMENT OF ABORTIONS RELATED TO RAPE, INCEST, OR PRESERVING THE LIFE OF THE MOTHER.

'The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion-

'(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. 

Mother Jones points out that under this bill, women and girls who are the victims of some statutory rapes in addition to "rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes" might no longer warrant federal assistance for abortions. Distressingly, over 170 Republicans support denying recourse to some of the most vulnerable rape victims by cosponsoring the bill. 

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