Every time the opponents of big government, aka Republicans and Tea Party members, weigh in on issues of personal choice such as abortion or whom to marry, I marvel at how conveniently they ignore their own anti-government interference rhetoric when it suits them to do so.
Last week, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." The bill has 173 sponsors, most of whom are Republicans.
The proposed legislation is an attempt to further restrict taxpayer funding for abortions. Current law already restricts the use of federal funding for abortions but includes exemptions when rape or incest is involved. Smith's proposed bill, which Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) has labeled a top priority in the new Congress, limits the rape exemption to "forcible rape."
Those of you under the age of 35 may not recall the days when simply saying "no" wasn't enough to constitute rape. This bill would turn back the clock. There is no definition in federal law for "forcible rape." Under current law, rape isn't defined in terms of force or lack of force but based on consent or lack of consent. Did the victim consent or was the victim capable of meaningful consent? This proposed legislation would rule out the exemptions that allow federal assistance for abortions when the individual was a victim of statutory rape, or drunk, drugged, or otherwise impaired because technically, such rapes aren't "forcible."
This attempt to redefine rape is ludicrous. What does forcible rape mean? Is there such a thing as "cooperative rape" or maybe "willing rape"? Rape by definition is non-consensual. The most obvious non-consent is when force is used, but having sex with someone who is unable to consent because of drug or alcohol impairment, or who is still in the caught up in the lack of judgment of youth, is still rape. The impact of this bill on current state criminal rape laws and statutory rape laws could possibly undermine existing laws to the extent that the crime of rate becomes even more difficult to prosecute. Already it's the only criminal charge where the victim is still blamed for possibly causing or inviting the crime.
If I go out to the ATM machine at 3:00 a.m. and someone robs me, whether or not I have a history of making late night trips to the bank is irrelevant to the process of determining the defendant's guilt or innocence. Despite positive changes that limit making the rape victim's character the subject of a a rape trial, there is still far too much leeway to consider the actions and behavior of the victim as a possibly contributory factor and/or evidence that there was no rape. This new nonsense by the GOP is another step down the wrong road.
If these people really are concerned about the well-being of children, why not worry about the ones already present and breathing on their own. According to data from the Census Bureau released in 2009, as of 2008, one in five children in the U.S. live in families below the official poverty level. Research from the Brookings institute predicts that number will rise to one in four by 2012.
Want to do something besides complain? MoveOn.org has a petition protesting this bill and urging Congress not to support it. Please take a moment to sign that petition.