Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

US bill redefines rape to limit abortion access

ImageAs we recently reported, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, introduced by Republican Representative and Pro-Life Caucus chairman, Chris Smith, breaks new ground in preventing both public and private healthcare organisations from providing abortion coverage.

But it has now become clear that the bill seeks to redefine rape to exclude any possible abortion ‘loopholes’.

The new bill includes a clause which would deny government funded ‘Medicaid’ to victims who happened to not be survivors of “forcible rape”. US federal law currently includes exemptions to restrictions on government-funded abortions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, but the new proposals include a qualifier that would exclude cases such as date-rape, and some cases of statutory rape for minors.

Furthermore, the bill includes no exceptions for women’s health, meaning that even if death could result from a pregnancy carried to term, women may still be denied abortion access. Due to the ambiguity of the term, entire states could see government-funded abortions become totally unavailable to pregnant women. Considering that 42% of women who seek abortions are below the poverty level, this further restriction on medicaid-funded abortions is likely to be devastating if passed.

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, stated that the bill “goes far beyond any other proposal ever introduced in Congress to take health care coverage away from women”, pointing out that over 70% of Republican voters opposed the bill. “Even Tea Party members don’t agree with pursuing an extreme social agenda”, she said.

The rape redefinition proposals and the Bill as a whole have sparked a huge outcry from feminist and pro-choice groups in the states who are mobilising supporters to voice their opposition by lobbying Republican speaker John Boehner and other politicians supporting the bill.

Follow the fightback on twitter using the hashtag #dearjohn

For further information, this article, by the National Women’s Law Centre outlines the various details of the bill and its destructive consequences if it was to be passed.