Rape-ish, Rape-esque, Rape-like: What Is Going On?

Today, House Republicans removed the term “forcible rape” in the recently proposed “No Taxpayer for Abortion Act.” Since the bill was introduced two weeks ago, a lot has happened. We’ve got you covered with a recap of the “redefining rape” controversy:

  • Two weeks ago, House Republicans introduced the “No Taxpayer for Abortion Act.” Whatever your take on abortion is, it’s telling that this bill was a main priority of Republicans at the start of the new legislative session. Seriously, taxpayer money going toward abortions is one of our most pressing problems? I’m gonna have to disagree. The Hyde Amendment already prevents taxpayer money from going toward abotions. The new act would just make it permanent.
  • Mother Jones then reported on rather big ripple effect of the legislation. Employers would be incentivized to offer insurance plans that don’t cover the costs of abortion, because the bill could prevent them from taking tax deductions for offering any plan that does cover abortion.
  • Despite the Hyde Amendment, through Medicare, taxpayer dollars still go toward “cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman.” However, Nick Baumann discovered language in the new bill that suggests the Medicare exception would extend only to those victims of “forcible rape.” Um, isn’t rape, by definition, forcible?  As Irin Carmon wrote, the act “could take statutory rape or rape during mental incapacitation or while intoxicated off the table.”
  • The language, though, still wasn’t clear and didn’t match up with criminal code definitions. Here’s how it read:

The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion—

(1) if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest; or

(2) in the case where the pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the pregnant female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

  • Some problems: minors aren’t covered unless it’s incest. Another reason to look forward to your 18th birthday! And “forcible rape” never gets defined, which throws the whole thing into an even more confusing and muddled gray area. With all these questions, it’s really not clear what the bill’s creators were trying to do. Jon Stewart and Kristen Schaal summed that up nicely:
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Rape Victim Abortion Funding
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  • Not surprisingly, Republicans backtracked today and finally removed the language from the bill, replacing it with the wording from the original Hyde Amendment. This means one of two things: either the sponsors of the bill are hopelessly incompetent and lazy, or they actually tried to narrow the definition of rape. So, our government is run by either a bunch of bumbling buffoons, or evil henchmen trying to alienate women and not help those impregnated against their will. You choose which one’s better.

—Photo brunosan/Flickr


About Ryan O'Hanlon

Ryan O'Hanlon is the managing editor of the Good Men Project. He used to play soccer and go to college. He's still trying to get over it. You can follow him on Twitter @rwohan.


  1. Trying to understand this from the perspective of fiscal responsibility is missing the boat and ending up on the other side of the island. I don’t want my tax dollars funding abortions. For any reason. PERIOD.

  2. From what I’m reading here, it doesn’t sound at all to me like anyone is trying to narrow the definition of rape. It sounds like someone is trying to narrow the definition of which abortions will be paid for with government money.
    You’re also misreading the part about minors. The way it is worded, they are always covered in cases of incest, consent or not. It’s adult women who aren’t automatically covered if they get pregnant via incest.
    I’m not saying this bill is good or shouldn’t be rethought, but let’s not start projecting our feelings about Republicans onto it and claim it’s something that it just isn’t.

  3. The reason people are opposed to abortion has little to do with funding and everything to do with life. A fetus is a baby. Come on guys, start acting like men and stand up for life !!! I think many men think abortion is OK simply because it might get them off the hook for paying child support. If you are truly “Good Men” take a stand for life !!!

  4. Thanks for point the finger at both parties, Koboyashi. That’s something that doesn’t happen on this biased site. Ryan asks the question if this abortion measure is our most pressing issue. He’s right in asking that question. I just wonder if he was asking the same question of the Democrats when they were pushing through a social re-engineering agenda instead of focusing on policy that would help the private sector build our economy.

    And mordicai, get real. You obviously weren’t paying attention form 2004-2008 when the sole focus of the Democrats was to get elected. And it worked. Your entire argument applies to both political parties.

  5. I think Koboyashi really summed it up: “This is on the verge of insanity.”

  6. These guys have no intention of legislating. The sole purpose of the Republican party has become “getting elected.” The strategy is two-fold; appeal to their base, & make their base fringier than ever, so no other party can court their vote. Spookily, it seems to be working.

  7. Koboyashi says:

    This is on the verge of insanity. One would think that government subsidized abortions were 20% of the 13 trillion dollar debt that the federal government has incurred. What’s even more ridiculous is that they’re trying to do it by reestablishing the definition of the word rape. I’m glad that the new republican majority in the house of representatives is really brainstorming on how to cut federal spending with this inane bill. I’m also glad that the democrats and the republicans have finally agreed on something….they love acting as useless buffoons who who once elected immediately begin planning on how they will be elected for another term instead of taking action on truly important issues like job growth. I guess this system is truly a democracy….or is the right term democracy-esque?

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