"Forcible Rape" Language Remains In GOP Anti-Abortion Bill

February 09, 2011 10:53 am ET — Kate Conway

Rep. Chris Smith

Last week, we heard that Republicans had caved to pressure and agreed to remove the insidious "forcible rape" language from their anti-choice H.R. 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." Yesterday, however, the New York Times reported that the bill had proceeded to a hearing before a House Judiciary subcommittee with the "forcible rape" language still in tow:

The bill, sponsored by Representative Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, has drawn fire over language that undercuts a longstanding exemption on the ban on using federal money for abortions in the case of rape or incest; the measure narrows the definition of rape to "forcible rape," a term that his office has never defined. Democratic lawmakers and others repeatedly hammered on the term, saying it suggested that victims of statutory rape and other crimes could not get abortions paid for with federal money.

While Mr. Smith's staff said last week that the term "forcible rape" would be removed from the bill, the staff of Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, said that language remained intact as of Tuesday.

Redefining rape to exclude cases in which the woman was drugged or a minor is already inexcusable to all but the most strident anti-abortion activists, but law professor Sara Rosenbaum points out that since H.R. 3 goes after abortion coverage via the tax code, it could mean that the IRS ends up being the agency that decides which rapes count.

"We're going to need the Internal Revenue Service to define a rape," she testified, "potentially a forcible rape, incest; potentially incest involving minors; as opposed to incest not involving minors; physical conditions endangering life, and physical conditions that don't endanger life." This from a party that purportedly wants the government to stay away from interactions between patients and their doctors. 

Yet even if Rep. Smith got around to removing the "forcible" language from the bill, H.R. 3 still constitutes government interference with private health care that goes far beyond current legislation. As Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) explains, "It tells women they can't use their private money to purchase insurance that covers a full range of health care. It punishes women and businesses with a tax hike — a tax hike — if they wish to keep or buy insurance that covers the full range of reproductive health care."