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The Real Agenda

February 3, 2011

Where to begin? So many people have already reported on the – incredible – redefinition of rape proposed in House Resolution 3. Even before I learned today that the bill’s sponsors are saying they will remove the single word “forcible” from the bill – the word that redefines rape in a way not known since the 1970s – I knew that I wanted to write about all the other reasons this bill has made me outraged. Because yes, even without redefining rape to exclude minors, women who are unconscious or mentally disabled or drugged, and rape committed by someone you know, this bill is appalling.

HR3 was introduced by New Jersey Representative Chris Smith, who, incidentally, is not one of the brand new tea party members, but has been in office since 1980. The Smith bill is an unprecedented attempt to stop health insurance from covering abortion care and to stop women from being able to access abortion care. In addition to redefining rape (because the bill’s language hasn’t actually been changed yet), this bill would end ALL federal funding of abortion care, and take away private health insurance coverage that women currently have, even when it is necessary to preserve their health. Let me point out that federal funds are used for a whole host of things that taxpayers may not like, and that the only times they are used for abortion are in cases deemed “worthy” like rape and life endangerment. Because only if my life is in danger or I have been raped am I deemed worthy of receiving a legal, and very safe, medical procedure without having to worry about raising the funds to pay for the procedure.

This bill would even raise taxes, by ending certain tax credits for health care if the health plan in question includes coverage of abortion. Yes, you read that right – the party of tax cuts wants to raise your taxes, if there is even a miniscule possibility that you may possibly use your own private funds to pay for a legal medical procedure. I know – it’s so logical. Small government, right here and now, is taking root in my very own uterus.

None of this would be conceivable if we did not already live in a world where abortion is so stigmatized and marginalized. None of this would be conceivable if we lived in a world where sexuality was understood and accepted as being a basic expression of being human. The underlying truth here is that the House leadership wants all sex to always lead to a pregnancy that is carried to term, although with all the cuts to social safety net programs apparently once a new baby is in the world it can fend for itself.

I’m glad that there are so many media outlets writing about how outrageous this bill is. But no one, as far as I’ve seen, is really talking about how we got here. Here is one clue: Apparently the head of the SBA List gave her first “State of the Unborn” address the night before President Obama’s State of the State address, and focused her remarks on asking supporters to “flex the muscle that we just flexed in this election.” I’m sorry, I thought this election was about jobs and the economy – and maybe, just maybe, about health care reform.

Let’s revisit the fact that Chris Smith has been in office since 1980. That’s 15 terms. That’s 30 years. That’s the entire lifetime of many women, like myself, who are now in their childbearing years – and one in three of us will decide we need an abortion at some point during those years. Smith is not a new Representative; in fact, he co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. The inclusion of the adjective “forcible” to describe the kind of rape a woman has to endure before she *gasp* tries to get her insurance plan – federally funded or not – to cover an abortion was deliberate, and he offered no explanation for what it means, either in the bill or when asked by reporters. What he’s doing in this bill may be unusual in its severity, and in its blatant disregard for Congressional standards (the reason everyone has to guess what “forcible rape” means is because his bill lacks the standard section on definitions), but it is not new. We’ve had legal restrictions on federal funds for abortion care since the 1970s. What is new is the willingness of elected leaders like Speaker Boehner to make this their signature piece of legislation, after having campaigned on promises to create jobs and fix the economy. Despite being the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, even Chris Smith himself campaigned on fiscal issues, not abortion. But apparently making abortion completely inaccessible is what the current House leaderships WANTS to be known for.

Let’s make sure they are known for its defeat. Let your Congressional Representative know how outraged you are today. And stand with Planned Parenthood for equality, justice, and health care for all.

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