Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Re-Defining Rape and Other Unconstitutional Acts in Congress

Originally published in the BG News on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo courtesy of Flickr user 666isMONEY under Creative Commons 3.0

In a world plagued by sexual assault, abortion remains legal.  It seems the only time “pro-life” voices concede abortion is necessary is in instances of rape, or if the mother’s life is in danger. 
But Republicans are looking to change that by re-defining words which are otherwise self-explanatory and empowering those who already hold power.
In 1973, Roe v. Wade guaranteed American women legal access to abortions performed by doctors in proper facilities.  By 1976, anti-abortionists had placed stipulations on the greatest victory for women’s health of the 20th century. 
The notorious Hyde Amendment prevents federal funds covering healthcare services for low-income people from paying for abortions.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “nearly 12.6 million women, representing 61.6 percent of adult female Medicaid enrollees, were of childbearing age in 2007.”  None of these women have legal rights to an abortion, unless they can afford the procedure as an out-of-pocket expense.
While this policy reduces poor women to second-class citizens, the legislative branch left a loophole, so as not to seem completely heartless.  Medicaid can still be applied to abortion services in instances of rape, incest or to save a mother’s life. 
So, if you are a woman and you are dependent on the government for healthcare, you cannot exercise your right to choose unless you can prove you were the victim of terrible crime or the physical stress of carrying a child for nine months will literally kill you.  
Yet, the majority of republicans in the House are unsure whether the hoops women are currently jumping through are sufficient to protect tax-payer money.  And that’s why House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made the “No Tax Payer for Abortion Act” a priority last month.
Proposed by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) rape would only pertain to “forcible” rape.  Statutory rape between an adult man and minor would not count and coverage in cases of incest would only pertain to victims who were under the age of 18.
The late, great comedian (and astute sociologist) George Carlin once expressed that a “pro-life” position (especially one that leads to clinic violence and the murdering of abortion providers) is not only hypocritical, but “anti-woman.”  And that is what these tighter restrictions are—more evidence that our 2011 Congress is anti-woman.
According to those who those who think “forcible rape” is somehow different from plain, old rape, this would prevent women who had been drugged or given large amounts of alcohol from qualifying.  These scenarios often occur in a “date rape” situation, which will also be dropped under the “No Tax Payer for Abortion Act.”  
Date rape, the common name for acquaintance rape, occurs when a woman is sexually assaulted by someone she knows.  According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 77% of rapes are acquaintance rapes.  A woman is four times more likely to be raped by someone she knows, rather than a stranger.  And acquaintance rape is rarely ever reported to the police.
Making arbitrary distinctions between “forcible rape” and “non-forcible rape” is problematic, to say the least.  If this term, with no legal definition, is allowed to impact legislation, only a fourth of these crimes would qualify for proper legal and medical attention, when every victim deserves to be handled with care.
Last week The Daily Show demonstrated the ludicrous nature of separating “rape-rape” from other kinds of rape with an eye-opening dialogue between Jon Stewart and Senior Women’s Issues Correspondent Kristen Schaal. 
“Republicans are finally closing the glaring rape loophole in our healthcare system.  You’d be surprised how many drugged, underage, or mentally handicapped young women have been gaming the system.  Sorry ladies, but the free abortion ride is over,” Schaal said.
Stewart questioned how this pertained to women who had been intoxicated and taken advantage of in a date rape situation.  Exemplifying that these stipulations would open the door for classic victim-blaming to save a few federal dollars, Schaal questioned what the women in Stewart’s scenario was wearing.
“Because that determines what is rape-rape and what is merely rape-ish.  And I don’t think hard-earned tax dollars should go to women who have only been rape-ished,” Schaal said.
It was brilliant, and credited with changing the wording on the bill. 
The phrase “forcible rape” has been dropped from the “No Tax Payer for Abortion Act” thanks to public outrage, the “Dear John” petition, and maybe a little common sense.  But changing a few words isn’t enough.  This and other potential laws being cooked up by the Republican majority still threaten the rights of women everywhere.
Yesterday, Maddie Oatman of Mother Jones reported Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) has been working on the “Protect Life Act” that would allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions, even those required to save the life of the mother.  This would trump the “Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act” requiring all hospitals, even those receiving federal funds, to help pregnant women by any means necessary. 
I guess you could call the latter the “Protect Existing Life Act”-- which House Republicans think should be changed.
While blurring the line between church and state, lawmakers insist their proposal would protect doctors morally opposed to abortion from discrimination. 
Obviously, it’s important to do all you can for the fetus within the expendable woman because that is what’s right.
These are scary times to be a woman in America.  While a post-feminist attitude has run rampant amongst those who feel women have already obtained social, political and economic equality, there’s about to be a rude awakening. 

Our rights are not as secure as we thought—and those in power are determined to keep chipping away, one unconstitutional act at a time.

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