Editorial: We Don’t Need to Redefine Rape

The title of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” sure manages to make it sound like women are plucking money out of taxpayer’s pockets and laughing all the way to clinics for willy-nilly abortions. But outside of Glenn Beck’s fever dreams this is hardly the case. The fact of the matter is that Medicaid has only ever helped fund procedures when women’s lives are endangered by the pregnancy, or when women have survived rape or incest.

But the new bill would make it so that a rape only counts if the woman can prove that the rape was “forced” upon her. The supporters of the bill mean to insinuate force as meaning overwhelming or deadly physical force. Though, naturally, no one has been forthcoming with an explicit outline of this “redefinition.” That means if she is drugged or otherwise coerced and becomes pregnant because of the assault, sorry, looks like she’s out of luck.

Additionally, if an incest survivor should suffer years of abuse only to have a pregnancy culminate on her 19th birthday, that’s too bad.
The women that would be directly affected by this bill are not likely to be able to afford the procedure independent of their insurance. And being impoverished is not qualification enough to be eligible for Medicaid, a person must fall into an additional category. (In the state of Maryland those categories include but are not limited to Breast and Cervical Cancer, Medically Needy, Aged, Blind, or Disabled Persons.)
Is the idea of directing tactics for the recovery of the economy away from those hit the hardest so unfathomable?

But the proposed act has less to do with cutting government spending and more to do with, what else, political posturing. After all, since Medicaid only funded 190 abortions last year, so it’s not the comparatively small amount of cold hard cash the bill is concerned with. Just another unfortunate testament to the institutionalized disdain held for 50% of the American population.

If the bill were to pass both in the House (probably) and the Senate (not as probable) it would likely receive a veto from President Barack Obama, who has a history of pro-choice oriented stances. Even if the act never passes it has already spoken volumes about the disturbing climate of America’s culture. The issue of abortion aside (and it is a huge aside) 173 congressmen have made it clear in their representation of the country that the rights and protection of women is considerably less valuable than the preservation of the estates of the super rich.

Attitudes and perceptions of rape in American culture have never reached any level above “barbaric.” Simple concepts such as “no means no” or “she wasn’t asking for it no matter what she was wearing / where she was after dark / how she acted around that guy /etc” struggle to take hold. With victim blaming being a more common response than human empathy is it any wonder that (according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) less than 40% of all sexual assaults in America are even reported? What does it say when 94% of all rapists will never spend a day in jail?

Things will only get worse if such attitudes behind this act are allowed to prevail. In 1994 there was a case wherein a woman was thrown against a mattress by her attacker. The rapist, who had been previously convicted, was acquitted when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the case on the basis that the woman did not bounce when she was thrown into the mattress.

Because there was not enough force to make her bounce it was determined that no force was involved and thus she was not raped. If policies like the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” are allowed to take hold we can expect plenty of more cases to rest on insane qualifications similar to “did she bounce?”

The fact that it’s been proposed at all is horrifying enough. Not only is it vicious in and of itself that these people are picking on rape survivors it’s that they are so eager to their cruelty. This proposal hasn’t come around as a last resort, indeed the Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), dubbed the act a “top priority.” The GOP could have adopted any number of avenues to reduce government spending but have instead latched onto the route that most efficiently proves their active misogyny.

It’s no coincidence that the bill is almost exclusively supported by the male members of the House. Men who will never have their voices callously ripped away from them because they can’t afford better insurance. They will never be told that their traumas are less valuable because they weren’t left battered and bleeding.

Since the GOP seems to need help deciding on a definition for “forced” rape here it is: all of it. All of it is forced because that’s what rape is. The means by which it’s perpetrated doesn’t matter. What matters is that we don’t take away the ability for survivors of violent crimes to control what happens to their own bodies when they have no other options. No society can claim to call itself “civilized” when the consequences of violent crimes are allowed to rest on anyone but the assailant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *