House GOP Caves On Redefining Rape Bill

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbaron/3734423379/">dbaron</a>


Last week, Mother Jones’ Nick Baumann broke the story on Chris Smith’s “No Taxpayer for Abortion” Act, which would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape. For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. But Smith’s bill contained a provision that would limit the rape exemption to “forcible rape,” ruling out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases—such as statutory rape—in which force was not involved or could not be proved. “It is absolutely outrageous,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). “I consider the proposal of this bill a violent act against women.”

Now, Smith has retreated, excising the “forcible” rape language from the bill, reports Politico. “The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment,” Smith spokesman Jeff Sagnip says, referring to the ban on the federal government paying for abortions that’s been in place since 1976.

The GOP effort to rewrite the meaning of rape incited a Twitter campaign of protest (using the hashtag #dearjohn). Editorial pages and columnists protested. Progressive groups initiated a crusade to kill the bill. And The Daily Show, of course, got in the act (around 9:15) too. MoveOn.org launched a petition against the bill, saying Smith’s legislation would “set women’s rights back by decades…As far too many women know, bruises and broken bones do not define rape—a lack of consent does.” EMILY’s List, issued its own petition, declaring war on the bill and one of its most prominent proponents: Speaker of the House John Boehner. Its website, BoehnersAmerica.org, urged “Boehner and his cronies to stop using rape victims as political pawns.” The group said, “it was known from the beginning that Boehner and his boys would fight to take away women’s freedoms whenever possible.”

Smith’s bill did unsettle some GOPers. Differentiating between types of rape, Politico reports, befuddled Republican aides. “Such a removal would be a good idea, since last I checked, rape by definition is non-consensual,” one GOP aide says.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate