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This Is The 'Redefining Rape' Bill That Democrats Will Use To Tie Paul Ryan And Mitt Romney To Todd AkinOn Sunday night, as Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment caused a national uproar, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz previewed how Democrats will use the remark to tie Akin to Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Here's Wasserman Schultz wrote in a fundraising email:
Can you imagine -- the same Republican House that refuses to pass a jobs bill jumped at the opportunity to make life harder for victims of rape?
And what do Romney and Ryan think of Akin's latest statement? They've been trying to distance themselves from it -- but Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women's ability to make their own health care decisions.
In 2011, Ryan joined Akin — along with 171 others, however — in co-sponsoring The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, or House Resolution 3, which aimed to "prohibit taxpayer funded abortions and to provide for conscience protections." It passed the House but has no chance, at least now, of being brought for a vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The Hyde Amendment contains exceptions to federal law banning funding for abortions that include cases of rape, incest and life-threatening circumstances for the mother. The original version of H.R. 3 would have narrowed that exception to cases of "forcible rape," though that definition was removed after much dissent (see Page 35 of the current text of the bill here).
Here's where the issue gets cloudy for Paul Ryan. Politifact notes that Ryan has only supported abortion in life-threatening cases for the mother, not rape or incest. But the Romney campaign is quickly moving to distance itself from that view, declaring Sunday night that "a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."
Related: The GOP's Party Platform Supports A Rapists Baby EVEN BEFORE Conception/Pregnancy!
A Collection Of Relevant News Reports and Explanations...
After Akin, GOP Makes Extreme Abortion Policy Official
In what will probably strike many people as a monumentally tone-deaf move, the GOP plans to include a plank in its 2012 platform calling for an amendment that would outlaw abortions under any circumstance. CNN reported on the draft language it obtained on Monday night, and the platform committee approved it on Tuesday:
"Faithful to the 'self-evident' truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed," the draft platform declares. "We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children."This plank isn't new for the GOP; it was also part of the party's platform in 2008. But given the major flap this week over Missouri Republican Todd Akin's remark that women who are the victims of "legitimate rape" can't get pregnant and therefore a rape exception isn't necessary, the release of the draft language arrives at a pretty bad time for the GOP. Scores of Republicans have condemned Akin's remarks. But by including it in the platform, the party is formally aligning behind a position that shows the same disregard for women who are the victims of rape that Akin got pilloried for vocalizing.
The human life amendment—which is in line with the "personhood" bills that have proliferated in the states in recent years—would extend legal rights to fetuses at any stage of development. Most of the measures creating a new constitutional amendment that anti-abortion lawmakers have tried (and failed) to pass in Congress over the years have explicitly defined life as beginning at the "moment of fertilization," meaning they would effectively make all abortions illegal. That includes pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, or if the life of the woman is at risk, since the amendment would make the fertilized egg and the woman equals in the eyes of the law. This type of amendment would also likely outlaw forms of contraception that prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg.
The topic of personhood has been a sticky one for Mitt Romney, who has tried to have it both ways on the issue; he voiced his support for a human life amendment in 2007, but during a GOP presidential debate last September he said that such an amendment would create a "constitutional crisis." On the campaign trial, he tried to distance himself from the personhood crowd, but now that his party is once again incorporating the measure into its platform, it will be a tough subject for him to keep avoiding.
When it come to reproductive rights, the platform doesn't stop at fetal personhood. It also includes a shout-out to other efforts limiting women's abortion access around the country, according to CNN:
Republicans have also inserted a "salute" to states pushing "informed consent" laws—an apparent reference to ultrasound bills that have moved through some state legislatures—"mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation."
The Iowa congressman says he's never heard of someone getting pregnant from rape or incestThe ever quotable Rep. Steve King became one of the only conservative leaders to lend credence to Rep. Todd Akin’s explosive comments on rape and abortion yesterday when he told an Iowa TV station that he hasn’t heard of someone getting pregnant from rape or incest. “Well, I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way, and I’d be open to discussion about that subject matter,” King told KMEG-TV yesterday in comments first flagged by TPM. King even suggested that pregnancies are rare or nonexistent in cases of statutory rape, even though that’s clearly not true.
When King was first asked about Akin’s comments at a town hall in Le Mars, Iowa, yesterday, he was more circumspect. Though he refused to condemn Akin, he didn’t support him either, saying he needed to review the Senate candidate’s original statement before offering a public opinion. Apparently King has now made up his mind.
Christie Vilsack, King’s Democratic opponent, told Salon in an interview this morning that King “should have condemned” and “should have distanced himself from” Akin. “I get friendship. It’s really important to stand by your friends, regardless of what they do or say, and he can do that privately, but publicly, he needs to make it very clear what his thoughts are on these very important issues,” Vilsack said. King endorsed Akin in Missouri’s Senate race, saying “my circuit lit up” when he met Akin for the first time.
The Republican Party turned on Todd Akin because he made plain their creeping extremism and political strategyWhen Missouri’s Republican candidate for the Senate said that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy, not only was Todd Akin echoing the extreme antiabortion positions held by many in his party, he was exemplifying the creeping extremism within the Republican Party on women’s issues and far more. In the new, extremist Republican Party, Akin is not an aberration. He is merely the latest canary in a coal mine of crazy.
Yes, the Republican establishment is condemning Akin’s remarks and distancing itself from his candidacy. But let’s be clear: Akin is only guilty of saying out loud what many Republican leaders think and legislate on the basis of. Talking Points Memo has detailed other Republican leaders throughout the years who have questioned that rape can lead to pregnancy and prominent Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal oppose abortions under all circumstances, including rape. Both will be speaking at the Republican National Convention next week. Moreover, the many Republicans pushing back against Akin seem more concerned with preserving the dignity of the Republican Party than protecting the dignity and rights of women who have been raped.
By the same token, a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system and cut non-defense discretionary government spending by a severe 91 percent — all for the purpose of giving even more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires above and beyond the historically enormous Bush tax cuts for the rich — might have once seemed like a secret fantasy document locked in a dark cabinet of the Heritage Foundation. But this is the substance of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, voted for by all but 10 Republican members of the House of Representatives. Of the once-extremist anti-government, anti-tax advocate, President George H. W. Bush recently asked, “Who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?” Today, Paul Ryan’s radical, scorched-earth budget against the vast majority of government spending is better than Norquist could have dreamed.
I suppose kudos is owed to the Tea Party and its far-right forebears for achieving this shift while simultaneously distracting the public by labeling President Obama’s milquetoast moderate policies as evidence of wanton socialism. The right wing sure knows how to infiltrate and infect the political mainstream while pointing fingers elsewhere. But for crying out loud, what the hell is happening to our country? We now have a party with elected leaders who think child labor laws are unconstitutional (Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah), who would repeal the Civil Rights Act (Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky), who think climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” (Republican Sen. James Inhofe). The rightward tilt of the Republican Party has been so swift and so extreme that, today, not only do both Bushes and Ronald Reagan look too liberal, but frankly so do John McCain and Mitt Romney (which is why Mitt Romney pandered to the extreme conservative base by picking Paul Ryan as his running mate).
The increasingly extremist Republican Party wants to make economic inequality worse and consolidate money and power in the hands of the elite (most of whom are wealthy, white men) while rolling back liberties for women, gay people and people of color. The increasingly extremist Republican Party believes that public programs that care for the poor and elderly, prevent corporations from polluting our air and water, and ensure equal opportunity in education are “shackling” big business — regardless of how much they help ordinary Americans. The increasingly extremist Republican Party doesn’t believe in the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change, but upward of two-thirds of Republicans do believe that President Obama was not born in the United States. Not only is the modern Republican Party fairly unconcerned with poor people and women and gay folks, but the modern Republican Party is unconcerned with basic facts. It is a purely ideological agenda, rationalized by whatever means necessary, including false “medicine” about women’s bodies and the atrocities of rape.
Today’s Republican Party is pushing a dangerous agenda that is becoming more extreme and ugly by the minute, an agenda that is seeping out despite attempted distractions of finger-pointing, fear-mongering and lies. Todd Akin can call his insulting and backward remarks a mistake as much as he wants and Republicans can flail their gums in outrage, but the fact is, Akin falls squarely in the mainstream of the extremist GOP.
Drugged, raped, and pregnant? Too bad. Republicans are pushing to limit rape and incest cases eligible for government abortion funding.[Editor's Note: On Thursday, House Republicans, facing an onslaught of outside pressure, decided to remove the controversial "forcible rape" provision from their "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." The original language from the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal funding for abortions through Medicaid except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother's life—will replace the "forcible" provision, said a spokesman for Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who introduced the bill. The move comes in response to heavy criticism in recent days from outside advocacy groups including MoveOn.org and Emily's List and the growing #dearjohn campaign, aimed at House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), that opposed the abortion funding bill. Read more about about the House GOP's backtracking here.Nick Baumann's original story on the GOP's attempts to redefine rape is below.]
Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents wouldn't be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.
There used to be a quasi-truce between the pro- and anti-abortion rights forces on the issue of federal funding for abortion. Since 1976, federal law has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. But since last year, the anti-abortion side has become far more aggressive in challenging this compromise. They have been pushing to outlaw tax deductions for insurance plans that cover abortion, even if the abortion coverage is never used. The Smith bill represents a frontal attack on these long-standing exceptions.
"This bill takes us back to a time when just saying 'no' wasn't enough to qualify as rape," says Steph Sterling, a lawyer and senior adviser to the National Women's Law Center. Laurie Levenson, a former assistant US attorney and expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, notes that the new bill's authors are "using language that's not particularly clear, and some people are going to lose protection." Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes. "There are a lot of aspects of rape that are not included," Levenson says.
As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18.
The bill hasn't been carefully constructed, Levenson notes. The term "forcible rape" is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill's authors don't offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of "forcible rape," making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.
The main abortion-rights groups despise the Smith bill as a whole, but they are particularly outraged by its rape provisions. Tait Sye, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, calls the proposed changes "unacceptable." Donna Crane, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, says that making the "already narrow exceptions for public funding of abortion care for rape and incest survivors even more restrictive" is "unbelievably cruel and heartless."
"This bill goes far beyond current law," says Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a co-chair of the congressional pro-choice caucus. The "re-definition" of the rape exception "is only one element" of an "extreme" bill, she adds, citing other provisions in the law that pro-abortion rights groups believe would lead to the end of private health insurance coverage for abortion.
"Somebody needs to look closely at this," Levenson says. "This is a bill that could have a dramatic effect on women, and language is important. It sure sounds like somebody didn't want [the exception to cover] all the different types of rape that are recognized under the law."
It's not just GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin. It's practically a party traditionBy now you’ve likely heard — and perhaps felt your jaw drop over — Todd Akin’s interview, in which the Republican Senate candidate from Missouri admitted that he believes abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape, because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” If you follow that logic to its end, Akin means: Ladies, if you say you got pregnant after being raped, you’re probably lying about being raped.
Of course, the scientific facts are far from being on Akin’s side, which should be embarrassing for a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. While it may be true that female ducks have evolved in such a way that they now have a biological anti-pregnancy response to forced sex, human beings most definitely have not. As the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff notes, many scientific studies have proven that the you-only-conceive-if-aroused theory is complete bunk. In fact, one study from 2003 even showed that rape victims may be more likely to get pregnant than individuals on the whole.
Akin’s assertion doesn’t make sense in other ways, either. For instance, there’s no sensible reason for the vast majority of mentally stable women to ever “cry rape.” As Amanda Marcotte notes at the American Prospect, “Why would a woman trying to put a one-night stand behind her invite grilling by detectives and defense attorneys? Why would someone so concerned about maintaining the illusion of purity subject her sex life to examination by a crowd of jurors?”
The mistaken notion that one’s body can somehow elude pregnancy when not aroused dates back centuries and is still a popular myth — though one rarely shared in public — among some anti-choicers today.
Within hours of Akin’s remark, journalists were producing detailed accounts of similarly absurd comments on abortion, rape and birth control from GOP officials and pundits, all of which showed a complete callousness toward science and women’s autonomy. To put Akin-gate in context, here are eight of the worst that we at AlterNet could find, past and present, but the full gamut of this sort of talk goes far, far beyond the following short list.
1. Other absurd Republican contributions to the “rape doesn’t lead to babies” myth. As Anna North reported earlier this year, other Republicans paved the way for Akin’s recent statements. In 1995, Republican Henry Aldridge stated that when a woman is raped, “the juices don’t flow,” and in 1988 another Republican congressman stated that women emit “a certain secretion” that stops pregnancy when they are raped. (Which has led many of us to wonder, which is it, guys? Do these mythical juices flow, or do they stop flowing, when a woman is raped?)
2. The daddy of all these rape theories. The National Right to Life Committee’s John C. Willke’s claims in an article that the “trauma” of rape prevents pregnancy — i.e., he “basically just makes shit up,” writes Katie J. M. Baker at Jezebel.
3. GOP donor asks, “Want contraception? Put an aspirin between your knees.” This line, now a total cultural punch line, came from Foster Friess, who was a big donor to Rick Santorum before moving on to support Romney. The video clip featuring Friess’ comments and Andrea Mitchell’s flummoxed response went viral this spring.
Friess: This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such inexpensive, back in my days we used Bayer aspirin for contraception, the gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.4. GOP lawmakers seek to legally redefine rape as “forcible rape” so fewer women will qualify as victims. Remember the media firestorm around the “war on women”? One of its major fronts consisted of congressional shenanigans around the definition of rape in the noxious H.R. 3 “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” bill. These efforts included Akin and V.P. candidate Paul Ryan and were aimed at siphoning off the number of abortion-funding exemptions so that only the rarest few qualified. What offended women most — and eventually scuttled the bill — was the idea that the government could weigh whether your rape “counted” or not.
Mitchell: Um, excuse me, I’m trying to catch my breath from that Mr. Friess, frankly..
Garance Franke-Ruta explains: According to the bill, there would be exemptions only for something called “forcible rape.” (Presumably, this is the same thing Willke called “assault rape” and Akin called “legitimate rape,” as opposed to what Willke called “consensual” “statutory” rape.) After a public outcry, Smith retreated from his first draft of the bill and reinstituted the Hyde language, though an additional provision was added later to clarify that the bill will “not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape.” Akin and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan were co-sponsors of the bill, along with 225 others.Since Sunday, the Romney camp has been trying furiously to distance itself from Akin, but these two names together as co-sponsors of this bill may come back to haunt Paul Ryan.
5. Another GOP lawmaker (surprise, surprise) worries that women will claim rape just to get abortions. This March, Idaho Sen. Chuck Winder, who had already proposed that women go through two forced ultrasounds, including one at a right-wing “crisis pregnancy center,” went a step further by voicing his concern that women might use the “rape issue” to go abortion-crazy. Quoth Chuck: “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape.”
6. Pundits and lawmakers: Forced ultrasounds are OK because women already consented to be penetrated when they got pregnant. Remember the bill in Virginia that would have mandated certain kinds of invasive ultrasounds for women seeking abortions (the kind that already exist in other states)? Well, ultraconservative pundit Dana Loesch, who has already come to Todd Akin’s defense in this round, was hostile to the basic concept that every time a person’s body is penetrated, it’s mandatory to ask for consent. “They had no problem having similar to a transvaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy,” she said. Sadly, Loesch’s idea was not so far out of the norm: Several Virginia lawmakers basically said the same thing.
7. When women sign up for the military to hang out with aggressive dudes, they are asking to be raped. Notoriously anti-woman Fox News talking-head Liz Trotta wondered of enlisted women who were assaulted, “What did they expect?” She also blasted feminist calls for infrastructure and support to help the increasing number of women in this position. And refused to apologize.
8. Santorum and Huckabee are all about rape victims taking one for team “Life.” Let’s not forget our Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, respectively, think rape victims should “make the best” of it and see the unwanted child as a gift and sometimes cool people are conceived in rape.
Some rape victims unsurprisingly see this idea as torture.
OK, so these are all pretty heinous things to say. But let’s take a deep breath and remember that rape culture doesn’t just live on the extreme right wing. From left-wing pundits who are convinced that the rape charges against Julian Assange must be trumped up, or that sex with a sleeping woman doesn’t constitute rape, to the mainstream pop culture writers who have long sought to minimize or dismiss acquaintance rape as “grey rape” or not real rape, to local and national law enforcement that don’t know how to handle victims properly, there’s a long continuum of thought that creates rape culture. Rape culture posits sex as a transaction with women’s sexuality as a passive object either given or taken, rather than a consensual exchange. Most important, rape culture puts the onus on victims to prevent rape rather than on potential perpetrators not to do it. Rape culture produces comments like Todd Akin’s, and then seeks to sweep them under the rug once the news cycle is over.