Monday, January 31, 2011


[NOTE: This post discusses rape, so if this is triggering for you, I'd suggest you not read it.]

Some of you may have already heard the news. There's a new bill in town and it's on its way to the House. It's called the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" (H.R.3). You can read the bill itself here, but to broadly sum it up, the bill aims to put a stop on health insurance-- really of any kind at all-- covering abortions. It's an insidious bill because by making abortion unobtainable, it will make it as good as illegal, but without every specifically doing so (it's an evil loophole). While, as a pro-choice woman, I see this as a terrible prospect in and of itself in this world where the right wing doesn't want sex education, either (gee, think of how many unwanted pregnancies might be avoided of people were educated about safe sex and how to use birth control!), the bill contains something else as sinister, if not moreso, than just the intention to erode a woman's right to choose.

Sec. 309 states that abortions will only be covered for women who are "the subject of an act of forcible rape, or, in a minor, an act of incest." It also goes on to say that women will be covered if death (but not other serious damages to health) is a serious risk if the pregnancy is continued, but did you see that? Did you see what they did there. Let me show you.

"Forcible rape."

If you're somewhat sane and educated, your first reaction that phrase is probably something like "but wait, Vanessa, all rape is forcible in that it is sexual intercourse with a person against his or her will, right?" Oh, well, see apparently you'd be wrong there. Apparently some people's trauma is more valid than others.

If we allow a bill like this-- with wording like this-- to pass, we will be a huge blow to rape survivors. Forcible rape does not include statutory rape, coercion, or intoxication. If you were drunk at a party and you had sex (you can't legally consent while under the influence) and regretted it, too bad. It's not enough. If an abuser threatens you to have sex with him and you give in, it's not enough. If he was 35 and you are 15, that's not enough, either. To boot, if you're 18 and a victim of incest, that's also not rape because you're legal. The only rape that counts is the "forcible" kind that you see on Law and Order: SVU where someone is holding you down and you fight back. If that wasn't how it happened, you don't count and your right to choose if you want any resulting children is gone.

But the abortion isn't the main issue to me. If we allow legislation like this to pass, we allow the government to decide whose pain is valid. We run the risk of even more rape survivors' experiences going unvalidated. We run the risk of rape cases being thrown out because they weren't harrowing enough. No one should have the right to take away what you feel.

If it feels like you were raped, you were raped. It doesn't matter how it happened. It isn't a contest. It doesn't matter if your experience wasn't as rough or life-threatening as the next person's. Rape is already a violation of a person's bodily autonomy. Rape, in all its forms, is a despicable act of violence. No one deserves rape. No one "asks for it." No one but you gets to decide if you wanted it or not. Abortion is an issue of bodily autonomy and so is rape. I believe that whether you support a woman's right to choose whether she wants to keep a pregnancy or not you should, as a decent human being, fight this bill.

Maybe John Boehner and the other representatives don't know someone who's been raped. Maybe they don't realize that no matter how it happened, it hurts, and what hurts even worse than the event itself is the cold world these survivors walk into. For many of these survivors, it still seems like their trauma was their fault somehow. It still seems like something they can't talk about, even with close friends. It's a source of shame. And some, surely, change their stances on abortion when faced with an unwanted pregnancy due to the attack. Maybe if Boehner and the rest of the representatives supporting this bill had a sister or wife or girlfriend or mother who had been raped-- even "non-forcibly"-- they would be more sympathetic. It's hard to tell.

This is the part where I tell you what you need to do.

Please, I beg of you, write or call your representative. That link will help you find out who yours is and how to get in touch. My boyfriend and I have already contacted ours.

On Twitter, people are using the hashtag #dearjohn to voice their disgust with H.R.3 (direct tweets to @johnboehner).

But mostly, contact your representative. I know talking to strangers can be scary-- I don't really like calling people I don't know, to be honest-- but it's necessary right now. Be polite and keep your cool. I know you're all very intelligent people and have plenty to say. Your voice really does matter, and maybe if there's an outpouring of concern about this bill, it will be stopped. Better yet, maybe that outpouring can help stop something like this from being proposed again.

We have the right to say "no," and that right should be honored.

EDIT: Feministing did a great post about this bill and its implications that you should check out if you're interested.


Miss Peregrin said...

I don't even have the words to express how angry I am about this. Maybe I'll comment again with something coherent when I'm done banging my head on my desk. Rest assured, I'm with you on this one.

Allison said...

Law student eye twitch --

The issue with this bill is that "forcible" does not mean the same thing in all jurisdictions, nor does "rape".

"Rape" is simply called sexual assault in some jurisdictions (as opposed to gross sexual deviation.)

"Forcible" may or may not mean that a woman has to prove that she attempted to resist or that there was constructive force by threat of serious bodily harm. Some (enlightened, personal opinion) states do recognize that sex without consent is in and of itself, by definition, forcible.

Anyway, this bill would be impossible to enforce because it would apply completely differently in every state if it means what it says it means. There is NO federally accepted universal definition of either forcible, or rape. If it seeks to create one, it has gone beyond the bounds of Congress' authority by attempting to use the police power solely reserved for the states.

From a merely bureaucratic standpoint, complete legal NIGHTMARE. Expect, among other things, a Constitutional challenge.

Vanessa said...

Allison, thanks so much for this comment! It's really interesting to hear what a law student thinks of something like this. My boyfriend (who doesn't think this bill will pass) will be going to law school in the fall and he's decently informed on a lot of legal stuff, but I definitely don't have that kind of insight myself a lot of times. I have to defer to people who know better than I, so this is really helpful in that it highlights another aspect of how problematic H.R.3 really is.

tywo said...

I don't know what to say.
forcible rape. That word just makes me sigh in sadness.
Such stupidity. Rape is rape. It is traumatic enough.
Thank you so much for sharing this.


Laells said...

That seriously disgusts me. :( That's all I can even think of to say about that.

D. said...

This is really disturbing. What are they gaining with this?


Related Posts with Thumbnails