Earlier this year, Republicans faced a backlash after Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) — an anti-abortion leader in the House — tried to narrow the definition rape to “forcible rape,” thereby preventing women who are drugged, verbally threatened, or do not physically fight off the rapist, from receiving an abortion with federal funds. Smith promised to remove the language, but in “a sly legislative maneuver,” the GOP still managed to alter the definition in H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act, an anti-abortion measure that passed the House earlier this month. As Tanya Somanader explained, “essentially, if the bill is challenged in court, judges will look at the congressional committee report to determine intent. The committee report for H.R. 3 says the bill will ‘not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape’ — thus excluding statutory rape-related abortions from Medicaid coverage.”
Yesterday, the GOP continued its assault against rape victims. As the Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett reports, “The House Committee on Rules blocked an amendment from going to vote on Wednesday that would have allowed military rape victims to access abortion care through their government-provided health plans”:
Earlier this week, Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and five other House Democrats submitted an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would reverse the current policy of denying abortion coverage to military women who are raped and become pregnant during their service. As the bill currently stands, servicewomen have to pay out of pocket for an expensive abortion procedure unless they can prove that their lives are in danger.
By contrast, other federal bans on abortion coverage, including those for Medicaid recipients, federal employees, and women in federal prisons, all include exceptions for victims of rape and incest. The ban on abortion coverage for military rape victims is actually more extreme than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited federally funded abortions for the past 30 years except in the cases of rape, incest and life endangerment.
Republicans in the House also approved an amendment “that would prevent a federal healthcare education fund from being used for abortion or to provide for training for abortion procedures.” These moves come just days after a new study found that the national abortion rate has actually decreased by 8 percent between 2000 and 2008, but rose “nearly 18 percent among the country’s poorest women” — the very women who are most impacted by the GOP’s attack on choice.