El Blog

A Cornucopia of Rape

Feature photo by Progress Ohio

Date rape, pack rape, incestual rape, spousal rape, partner rape, prison rape, war rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, group rape, gang rape, and on and on it goes. This isn’t meant to be a depressing commentary on the fact that in our society we have so many types of rape, but rather to reduce it to its one shared factor: the word rape. All rape involves non-consensual sex acts committed against an individual by another individual or group of persons of any gender. This can be further reduced to the word forcible–against one’s will. The recent “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions” Act proposed on January 20th has the ostensible purpose of limiting federal funding to cover necessary abortion procedures for low-income women. The limiting funding would come primarily through federal subsidies to state Medicaid programs, but would also affect any institution receiving any type of federal funds, including Planned Parenthood and military women at home or abroad.

This isn’t actually a new idea, as the Hyde Amendment has been used in various incarnations since 1976 to limit tax dollars from paying for abortions, except in the event of rape, incest or imminent physical harm to the mother. The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions” Act seeks to specify the incest coverage clause to apply only to minors, and rape coverage to extend only to victims of “forcible rape.” This is what caused the initial uproar; the very definition of rape is forcible. House Republicans promised but have yet to remove the redundant verbiage. It appears the battle has been won, but not really–not if it was a false war.

The real purpose of this proposal is to make the Hyde Amendment into a federal law. After Roe vs. Wade decriminalized abortions in 1973, Representative Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) wrote what is now known as the Hyde Amendment. It has been altered many times, but basically it does what the newly written “No TaxPayer Funding for Abortions” Act wants to do. Federal funds can only be used to pay for abortions in the event of physical harm to the mother or as the result of rape or incest. Between 1981 and 1993, abortion opponents managed to limit coverage to only physical endangerment of the pregnant woman, but it was reversed under President Clinton. Essentially what we have is an annual back-and-forth to define which specific class of poor female is allowed to terminate an unwanted pregnancy by receiving financial assistance.

One of the problems with this is that it promotes the ongoing class distinction. It seems that the deep wealth divide in the U.S. is accepted as an indicator of who is or is not valued. Poor equals less than; less worthy, less important, less valuable. The fact remains that at this present moment, abortions are a legally protected right of women in the U.S., whether or not one agrees with this fact. If you have the money, you are fully entitled to a safe, legal and sanitary medical procedure. If you do not have the cash, you are not. If your pregnancy is the result of a rape or incest, then you are eligible for an exception, providing you explain to your physician your particular rape or incest experience.

Additionally, the new bill takes the funding limitations even further in the “Prohibiting Taxpayer Funded Abortions and Providing for Conscience Protections” section. It would extend the limitations to any tax credits an individual earns from purchasing private health care, or to private funds saved in a tax-deferred trust or account that could be used to pay for an abortion. What’s more, no medical professional on the federal payroll nor any federal medical center (i.e. domestic or overseas military bases) would be allowed to provide abortion services. This will further expand the financial hardship to women who wish to terminate their pregnancy, and could essentially rule out the possibility entirely for a U.S. citizen based in another country with no or sub-standard abortion services. Considering the prevalence of rape in the military–most of which are not investigated–this is a very serious consideration. For those who wish to overturn Roe v. Wade and cannot, trying to eliminate any possibility of obtaining a safe, legal abortion is the next best thing.

Let’s look at this phrase “conscience protection.” This is the legal exception for medical professionals, such as a doctor at a Catholic hospital, to elect not to perform abortions if it runs contrary to their belief system. The problem is that using this clause, if a doctor chooses to let a pregnant women die instead of performing an emergency abortion needed to save her life, is that doctor held accountable for the loss of the adult female life, or would said doctor be legally protected?

I propose we take this phrase and run with it. For example, I believe my conscience should protect my tax dollars from being spent on the failed drug war in Mexico, where roughly 35,000 people have been slaughtered in just over four years. I would like conscience protection from my hard-earned pennies being spent on murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, or from supplying munitions to corrupt regimes the world over. We could take this conscience-protected money and help the 32,000 women who end up pregnant as a result of rape annually in the U.S., according to a study done by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. They state that “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency” and that nearly half of women in this particular heinous situation do not even receive post-rape medical attention, not to mention treatment for PTSD.

To some people, especially those who are against abortion, bills like these may seem innocuous, and merely financial on the surface. This really has little to do with funding, and more to do with a moral judgement cast upon a group of women who are little-protected. Tax monies covered fewer than 200 abortions last year. In a nation where there are nearly 200,000 reported cases of rape every year (the large majority of whom are women and girls), and many people do not even report rape to the authorities for fear of reprisal and lack of protection, or even being treated like a criminal when dealing with police, we have a serious anti-woman problem. Politicians like Congressman Steve King (R-IA) who are against universal health care and want to “smackdown” Planned Parenthood, which provides low-cost sexual and preventive healthcare such as cancer screenings and birth control to so many women who could otherwise not afford it.

Why do we use terms of violence when talking about issues we don’t agree on?

Where are the alternatives being offered?

If women do not have access to contraception, affordable sexual healthcare, or safe and sanitary abortion procedures, unwanted pregnancies and preventable or treatable cancer rates will increase as fewer and fewer women are able to seek sexual health services. When these children are born, and there are no social services left once we get through cutting everything (except for bankers, CEO’s and CFO’s giant bonuses), what are we to do to help women and their children when there is nothing left? Let the smackdown on women end now.

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