GOP To Drop “Forcible Rape” Language From Abortion Bill
In response to charges that it was attempting restrict abortion access beyond the boundaries of the Hyde Amendment, the GOP has agreed to drop the phrase "forcible rape" from its abortion bill.
Both James Joyner and Dodd Harris have written about the controversy that has erupted over the wording of the bill House Republicans have introduced related to taxpayer funding for abortion. Wisely, the GOP has decided to avoid the battle that was likely to erupt from what in retrospect was a poor job of legislative drafting:
House Republicans plan to sidestep a charged debate over the distinction between “forcible rape” and “rape” by altering the language of a bill banning taxpayer subsidies for abortions.
The provision in question, written as an exemption from the ban for women who become pregnant as a result of “forcible rape,” touched off a firestorm of criticism from women’s groups, and it gained enough attention to become the subject of a satirical segment on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
But a spokesman for the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), says the modifier “forcible” will be dropped so that the exemption covers all forms of rape, as well as cases of incest and the endangerment of the life of the mother.
“The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment,” Smith spokesman Jeff Sagnip told POLITICO, referring to the long-standing ban on direct use of taxpayer dollars for abortion services.
The fight over the definition of rape threatened to sabotage Republican efforts to highlight their push to end taxpayer subsidies for abortion, and the distinction between types of rape mystified some GOP aides.
That highlighted quote is interesting in that it suggests that Smith was intending to differentiate the definition of rape in the bill from the one in the Hyde Amendment, and to make it harder for poor women to obtain abortions.
Personally, I don’t have a dog in this fight. Abortion simply isn’t an issue I’m interested in discussing anymore because it’s clear that compromise among those on both sides simply isn’t possible, and you can’t have a political discussion when one side accuses the other of being a “baby killer.” My default position is that the government shouldn’t be involved in this decision at all, whether or not it’s right or wrong. When it comes to funding, I’m generally libertarian.
However, it seems pretty clear that Smith was trying to pull a fast one here.