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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

By now you'd expect House Republicans to ignore jobs in favor of demagoguing on a social issue like abortion. It's become a familiar playbook. But what they're doing now is very different, and considerably more dangerous.

Republicans as prominent as Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are backing a new measure sponsored by vocal anti-abortion Congressman Chris Smith. It is  H.R. 3, The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.  

The bill promises to just what it says it will: make the Hyde Amendment permanent; prevent tax breaks from going to insurance consumers (employers or the self-insured) if the insurance they're buying covers abortion. Anti-abortion legislative goals, in boilerplate language, designed to give the impression that the government pays for abortions willy-nilly (when the facts tell a very different story, particularly for low-income women).

However, in his update yesterday, TPM reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro detailed the bill's effects on rape victims:

...the widest criticism of the bill comes in its exemptions for rape -- provisions that would allow federal money or private insurance to be used to cover an abortion. H.R. 3 says those provisions would kick in only in cases of forcible rape, a distinction from other forms rape of that is largely undefined but seems to suggest that a rape that doesn't include violence wouldn't count. The bill would also limit the incest exemption to women under the age of 18 -- meaning a victim of incest who was legally allowed to vote wouldn't have her abortion covered by Medicaid and would likely have more limited access to private insurance than she does today.

Long story short? Rape, in Republican Newspeak, is only rape if you get hurt. Huh?

Pro-choice activists are relentless and out in force, staging the #DearJohn campaign on Twitter to get Speaker Boehner's attention. So are the many Democrats who don't already support H.R. 3., including Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who said, "I consider the proposal of this bill a violent act against women." Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado highlighted the Act's extremism by noting that it goes "far beyond the current law." It also goes far beyond the English language.

Rape is violence. Whether it happens to someone during a home invasion, a woman in a relationship who ends up having sex with her boyfriend after she's made clear she didn't want toa minor even with her consent, or to an intoxicated woman accosted in a seedy bar, it's rape.

Real talk: a group of mostly male Republicans is using stunt legislation to prioritize the agendas of anti-abortion zealots and health insurance companies. And in doing so, they're making the very definition of rape a topic for debate.

The tweets on #DearJohn are coming from women (and not enough men) who are from this country, who live in this country, and are subject to this latest Republican exhibition of "small government." Will Republicans listen to these Americans, or only the ones who keep them powerful?


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