Friday, February 4, 2011

Breaking News: House Republicans Decide That No Really Does Mean No

House Republicans really want to get down to business and address the nation’s economic woes: deal with the 9% unemployment rate, a stagnant economy, and the ever increasing national debt.  Their solution: H.R. 3 "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."  How do Republicans plan to deal with women getting away with claiming they were raped so the federal government will pay for their abortions under Medicaid?  The plan: limit federal funding for abortions for pregnancies resulting only from “forcible rape.”  That would certainly cut down on the tremendous cost of women pretending they were raped in order to get free abortions.  In fact, the Guttmacher Institute found that in FY 2006“[t]he federal government contributed to the cost of 191 procedures…” 

So federal taxpayers paid for a mere 191 abortions in 2006 and those abortions were only permitted because a woman was either raped, the victim of incest, or the pregnancy threatened her life.  In 2001 only 56 abortions were covered by federal Medicaid funds.  And this is the legislative priority House Republicans have identified as most pressing for the nation – making sure that women are not lying about rape to get their free abortions. 

So that was one plan House Republicans came up with to save the federal taxpayer some money.  Well, at least that was the plan until House Republicans found themselves defending the use of the archaic term “forcible rape.”  The vociferous protests and petitions that erupted online and in print from women’s groups and even from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” had the Republicans in duck and cover mode.  Representative Dan Lipinski (D -IL), a Chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, issued the following unsettling response about the rape language on January 28th:

The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so.  Nonetheless, the legislative process will provide
an opportunity to clarify this should such a need exist.

So let’s not forget that the 10 Democratic co-sponsors of this legislation are just as culpable as the House Republicans.  The language in H.R.3 presumably was designed to codify the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother.  However H.R.3 goes far beyond the proscriptions of the Hyde Amendment; the most glaring and ominous revision being the use of the term “forcible rape” instead of “rape” and only allowing federal funds to be used for incest cases involving minors.  Specifically, Sec. 309 of the Act states that the limitations on federal funding do not apply “…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…” 

Yesterday, in full retreat mode, a spokesman for Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the sponsor of the legislation, announced that the word “forcible” would be removed from the proposed legislation.

The other 173 cosponsors (163 Republicans and 10 Democrats) of this legislation insisted that they never intended to change the provisions of the Hyde Amendment – only codify it so Congress would not need to reauthorize it year after year in appropriations legislation.  Well, I know I will breathe a sigh of relief tonight knowing that at least 174 members of the House of Representatives really do care about the most vulnerable women in America.  

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