#DearJohn: The GOP Seeks to Re-Define Rape and Restrict Reproductive Health Care

It’s not surprising that with large numbers of Republicans elected to Congress, we’re seeing major assaults on reproductive rights. What is shocking is how aggressive and heartless they are. A new bill, which has a good chance of passing, will deny abortion services to rape survivors; cut abortion care from private insurance policies; and remove exceptions for abortions that preserve a pregnant woman’s health.

The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, which is sponsored by vocal anti-choice republican Chris Smith, does the following:

-Re-defines rape. As it stands, federal dollars do not cover abortion, except in instances of rape, incest or a threat to the pregnant woman’s health or life. This bill requires that the rape exception only cover “forcible” rape — so if you’re 14 and you’re impregnated by your 30-year-old “boyfriend,” that’s not really rape and you’d better start saving up your allowance if you want to terminate the pregnancy. “Forcible” isn’t defined in the bill — if you’re drugged and then raped, that might not count, since there wasn’t force involved. There’s also an incest exception, but only for minors — so if your father rapes you and you’re 18, too bad.

-Removes exceptions for the woman’s health. This bill allows federal funds to cover abortion if a physician certifies that the pregnancy will kill her, but allows no exceptions for the pregnant woman’s health. So if, for example, continuing a pregnancy will damage the woman’s kidneys so badly that she’ll need to be on dialysis for the rest of her life? Too bad, that’s not life-threatening.

-Requires that the government continue to fund entities that discriminate against women and endanger women’s health. The text of the bill reads “A Federal agency or program, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance (either directly or indirectly), may not subject any individual or institutional health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” So health care facilities can not only refuse to provide abortions, but can also refuse to refer women out for abortion coverage — even, I assume, if it’s an emergency situation and the woman’s health or life is on the line — and the federal government cannot withdraw funds. This is particularly troubling when the term “abortion” is being regularly re-defined to include even birth control and emergency contraception. It’s already law that doctors and nurses don’t have to provide elective abortions, and that health care facilities are not required to offer abortion services. But this bill gives any health care provider full reign to discriminate when it comes to reproductive care. If, for example, you’re a rape victim and you go to the emergency room of a Catholic hospital, not only does that hospital not have to offer you emergency contraception, but they can also refuse to refer you to a hospital that does. We’ve seen how this can play out — in Arizona, a nun who worked on a hospital’s ethics committee was excommunicated when she allowed an abortion for a woman who would have died without one. This bill seeks unprecedented protection of health care entities that refuse to provide a full range of health care for pregnant women.

-Cuts tax benefits to any organization or individual that selects an insurance policy that covers abortion. As it stands, most private insurers cover abortion care. This bill, though, cuts tax subsidies that are given to small business owners if those business owners select insurance plans that cover abortion. The same is true for individuals who purchase insurance. This bill would virtually ensure that private insurance companies drop abortion coverage — even where abortions are medically necessary.

This is very, very bad. So we’re organizing an opposition. Here’s what you can do:

-Contact your representatives. You can find them here. Tell them that this bill is unconscionable. Tell them that re-defining rape in “pro-life” terms is disgusting and cruel. Tell them that disallowing funding for abortions to preserve a woman’s health is horrifying. Tell them that the federal government shouldn’t be encouraging private insurance companies to offer less coverage.

-Spread the word. Yes, there is a Twitter hashtag — #DearJohn. You can also tweet directly @JohnBoehner. I tend to look at Twitter campaigns with a bit of a jaundiced eye, but this bill is so outrageous that ringing the alarm through social media could do some real good. Anti-abortion measures like this one tend to get branded as simply no longer allowing taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion (see, e.g., the name of the legislation). But that’s not what this is about at all. This is about targeting rape survivors whose rapes weren’t violent enough to please Chris Smith or John Boehner. It’s about deciding that lasting physical damage to a woman’s body isn’t enough to merit an abortion. It’s about blocking businesses and individuals from selecting insurance policies that cover all of their necessities. Keep that message going, loudly and in public.

-Put some fire under the feet of the bill’s co-sponsors. Here they are. Let ’em have it. Tell them exactly what it is that they’re sponsoring (and tell everyone else, too).

Sady has more about how we can mobilize. So let’s get on it.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Discrimination, Feminism, Gender, Health, Law, Politics, Poverty, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Sexual Assault and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to #DearJohn: The GOP Seeks to Re-Define Rape and Restrict Reproductive Health Care

  1. Florence says:

    I think Aunt B captures the sadism inherent to a bill like this quite well. Highly recommended POV — this is a disgusting proposal.

  2. Michelle Johnson says:

    So… the GOP is now stating that “Tamar” was never “forcibly raped” and the Bible is wrong. Gosh…I’ll have to re-think the Bible or better yet- how about you quitting mocking God you hypocrites.

  3. Lynnsey says:

    I opened a Twitter account today specifically for this purpose.

    I am obsessing about this. I have been for days. It blows my mind how anyone can support this. I emailed my Congressman today and told him in no uncertain terms how disgusting I thought his support of this bill is. It’s not bad enough that they’re trying to essentially block all access to abortion, but then to tell rape survivors that they don’t count because their rape wasn’t violent enough…it makes me want to punch something.

    What’s next? Will they try to ban women of reproductive age who want to remain childless from having their tubes tied, etc?

    • Jill says:

      What’s next? Will they try to ban women of reproductive age who want to remain childless from having their tubes tied, etc?

      They already do that at Catholic hospitals.

  4. Lynnsey says:

    Jill: They already do that at Catholic hospitals

    Well, yes…but how long before it’s legitimized in a federal law. Think of all the potential babies they could protect!

  5. Kristen J. says:

    I hate people. Forget all that stuff I said about everyone being just people carrying around their own baggage but capable of being good. People are evil. I’m shopping for a previously uninhabited island…which I think just got considerably smaller.

  6. ElleBeMe says:

    YOu know, when I read things like this, and I read about how Wall Street robbed us blind, how the agricultural industry is legally allowed to recycle hazardous waste into fertilizer (not rendering it NON-Hazardous), the destruction of small communities accross our country due to globalization, the destruction of communities around the world because of globalization…and on and on and on…

    I really do begin to give up hope. So many of the gains that were made decades ago for social and economic equality have been trashed and tossed….or are on the endangered list of things soon to go. I will never have to have an abortion again. I had my children and got my tubes tied. But I fear for the women of my childrens’ generation. I am not so sure they will be able to have a safe, legal choice. And no matter how many letters I send, how I participate in keeping access safe and legal….I am not so sure that they will. The numbers showing up for “pro-life” protests are growing while pro-choice events remain sparse.

    I would really hate for the future to look back upon us now and say, “damn, you had it and let it slip away!” and have to explain to them we did all we could.

    Things are not looking good for American women. Not at all. Problem is we, like our male counterparts are trying to stay afloat and keep food on our table.

  7. PrettyAmiable says:

    Thank God I was assaulted when I was sleeping in my own bed. For a second there, I thought I was raped. Thanks, GOP, for clarifying that one for me.

  8. Astrid says:

    Thank goodness I can’t live in the U.S. I have read up a lot on HR3 and it sounds more horrible the more I read about it. Is there anything I, as a foreigner, can do to save reproductive rights in your country?

  9. Jim says:

    ElleBeMe: I really do begin to give up hope. So many of the gains that were made decades ago for social and economic equality have been trashed and tossed….or are on the endangered list of things soon to go.

    It sure feels that way. It’s because we got complacent. I hope all those hopefully “whiny, entitled” Gen Xers and Millenials get fired up. I don’t hold out much hope for us Boomers doing the right thing.

  10. GallingGalla says:

    Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann valued their credibility as leftists enough so that we were successful in pressuring them to admit their wrongs (even if only partially).

    Sadly, I don’t think that Boehner and the gang give a rat’s ass. They have the support of their fundamentalist right-wing Christian base and the industrialists. Basically, I’m feeling pretty hopeless about not just this specific bill, but the direction this country is turning.

    Nevertheless, I’ll be tweeting Boehner and #DearJohn and writing my reps, if only to keep myself from sitting and stewing.

  11. ElleBeMe says:

    Jim – I am a gen-xer. :>) I don’t see my generation as so much whiny, but rather to have imbibed rather heavily the Randian Objectivist Kool-Aide. We’re the generation that went from “who cares” to “Fuck you, I got mine.”

    I grew up with some of the “radicals” of the 60’s. I remember being told what life was like for women, and especially how life was for them if you were sexually active. I have a relative that survived her back-alley (she’s gone now….) but could not have children afterwards. And when I say survive, I mean it. She nearly died from it.

    There was once a time when the ueber religious were laughed at – that draconian policies like the one above were thought to be so insane NOBODY could take who proposed them seriously. NOw we have Rand Pul, Boehner, Palin, etc. etc….

    What the eff happened?

  12. Pingback: GOP Knows Best Whether You Were Raped « Astrid's Journal

  13. April says:

    Yes, there is a Twitter hashtag — #DearJohn. You can also tweet directly @JohnBoehner.

    FYI, Sady mentioned at some point today that if you want to direct #DearJohn tweets at Boehner, you should send them to @SpeakerBoehner.

  14. Lily says:

    ElleBeMe: The numbers showing up for “pro-life” protests are growing while pro-choice events remain sparse.  

    Do you know of events that people can attend or a website to find events for pro-choicers to go to? I would be interested in helping, but I don’t know where to go.

  15. Nahida says:

    You know, if it weren’t for the title of the act, I would be absolutely sure this had no chance of passing. I know some people who are pro-choice and believe taxpayer money shouldn’t pay for abortions. But of course, the act is more than that. I hope to God people read things first!

  16. Nahida says:

    Of course, it won’t even matter since it’s not even up to that. *fumes*

  17. Azalea says:

    Adequate healthcare is quickly becoming a luxury service only afforded to the uppermidle class and beyond.

    Redefining rape? Taking out the incest , life and health provisions? So poor women are pushed into more of the likes of Gosnell? Punishing small businesses for offering adequate healthcare options to its employees?

  18. Pingback: What You Should Know About H.R. 3: The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" | Menstrual Poetry

  19. ElleBeMe says:

    Lily: Do you know of events that people can attend or a website to find events for pro-choicers to go to? I would be interested in helping, but I don’t know where to go.  (Quote this comment?)

    I wish I did.

  20. groggette says:

    Lynnsey: What’s next? Will they try to ban women of reproductive age who want to remain childless from having their tubes tied, etc?

    obviously not a federal thing, but a lot of doctors already do this, whether or not they are Catholic themselves or affiliated with a Catholic hospital.

  21. Lynnsey says:

    @groggette…I’ll repeat my response to Jill from above. Of course this already happens. What I’m asking is how long before it’s codified by federal law? That seems like it would be the next step. Or why not mandating abortions for certain people? The government that can tell me I can’t have an abortion isn’t too far off from the one that can tell me I must.

    • Jill says:

      I hear ya, Lynnsey. Just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to challenge what you were saying at all — just adding to it. The whole thing is horrifying.

  22. This issue is something that is extremely important to our ongoing struggle for women’s rights. At EMILY’s List, we know that over the past 26 years, our members have fought for the freedoms my generation enjoys today by helping to elect pro-choice Democratic women. We’re asking the GOP: what are your priorities? You spoke of an economic mandate, but your actions show a dedication to rolling back the rights of women.

    Join EMILY’s List in sending this message to Speaker Boehner: we will not stand for these attacks on women’s rights.

    Visit http://boehnersamerica.com today to join us.

  23. Paraxeni says:

    This is nothing short of disgusting and barbaric. To think of a bunch of men sitting around, trying to think of any way at all they can further limit who has the right to bodily autonomy, who hump to “Hey, let’s redefine rape so that the vast majority of rapes don’t actually count!”, it’s sick. I’m not an American, I’m a woman who will never be in need of an abortion, and this story made me cry for most of the weekend.

    I spent today arguing with someone who said “Well, we have to make women jump through hoops, or they’ll use abortion as their default birth control.”

    Yes, you read that right. All women are vapid, ambulatory uteruses who cannot use forward-thinking or contraception, and would rather get abortions once every few weeks, so they need to be protected from themselves.

    When I pointed out that I live in a country that has the following:

    -taxpayer funded abortion (and I’m fucking proud of it)
    -abortion free of charge on the NHS
    -the majority of procedures carried out before 8 weeks
    -virtually immediate access to RU486+a hospital bed in ‘high-risk- areas

    and that they’re still the exception, not the rule – that person vanished from the debate. You see, abortion up to 24 weeks that is essentially on demand and free of charge, doesn’t make people think “YAY! Scraping time!” and cause them to flush their pills down the toilet, or yank out their IUDs. No, it makes them think “I hope I won’t need one, but if I do, I know it’ll be safe and relatively easy to access.”

    The ambulatory uteruses are capable of thought, actual sentient beings. Almost mind-boggling really. *cough*

    Abortion will always be a necessary service, nothing is going to make it go away, ever. Not redefining who’s eligible, not banning it altogether. I suppose re-opening ‘septic tank’ wards in hospitals will create a handful of jobs for people caring for the coathanger+cohosh crowd, but as long as pregnancy is a possibility, people who can get pregnant will need a way to end it. Why don’t these (I rarely use this word) EVIL people understand that? Is demonising survivors of rape and incest just an added layer of frosting on their fail-cake, or what? Something’s going badly wrong here America.

  24. Paraxeni says:

    Er, that should be ‘jump to’ not ‘hump to’, and ‘forethought’ not ‘forward thinking’. I shouldn’t post on heavy duty meds.

  25. Paraxeni says:

    Er, that should be ‘jump to’ not ‘hump to’, and ‘forethought’ not ‘forward thinking’. I shouldn’t post on heavy duty meds.

  26. Gordon says:

    I have said it elsewhere, and I’ll say it here. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is tyranny and bigotry at its ugliest, and that’s all it is.

  27. Pingback: MCMAYHEM » Blog Archive » Remains of today

  28. Nat says:

    This bill makes me sick to my stomach even thinking about it. I by no means support using abortions as alternative birth control but if a woman needs one for her physical, mental, or emotional health she should be able to have one. Creating rules like this allows women’s safety to be compromised. You take away their options and they will go to places that are unsafe in order to deal with this issue.

    Also how dare someone determine the value of a rape based on the amount of force or the age of the woman. Whether you’re 14 or 52 rape is a horrible thing to go through and to tell many survivors that their rape was somehow less legitimate or worthy of concern than another rape is the cruelest thing I’ve ever heard.

    As a survivor, when I read this I actually got physically ill. My rape may or may not have qualified if this had been implemented at the time. But I hate to think of the multitude of women who will suffer if this is allowed to pass.

  29. Pingback: Action against H.R. 3 (abortion/rape) « Feminéma

  30. Feminema says:

    See here for my open letter to my state representative (who, of course, is on that list of co-sponsors of H.R. 3):

    http://feminema.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/action-against-h-r-3-abortionrape/

  31. Paraxeni says:

    Nat- ” I by no means support using abortions as alternative birth control ”

    Good. Know why? NOBODY DOES THAT. Nobody.

    You cannot be “pro-choice but…”. You are or you’re not, pro-choice full-stop.

  32. Pingback: Attack of the Anti-Choice Clones: Federal & State Legislators Wage War on Women & Reproductive Justice…It’s Time to Fight Back | The Opinioness of the World

Comments are closed.