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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Aw, nuts!

I'm beginning to think that the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives knows and understands that they can't accomplish what the Tea Party money paid elected them to do, so they are going to flex their muscles and scare people for the rest of their term while sending a message to their supporters that, see, they are actually doing what they were paid elected to do.

That's what I think on a good day.

On a bad day, like today, I think they've all lost their minds.

It's getting more and more squirrely on Capitol Hill - and I fear it's going to get worse, if it ever gets better.

I thought the reading of the Constitution was pretty silly. I thought the vote to repeal the Health Care Reform Bill, even though they knew it would accomplish nothing, was pathetic. 

But, this! Well, this just absolutely blows my mind.

There's nothing to be done but get directly to it:  Nick Baumann over at Mother Jones is reporting that the House GOPs are planning to redefine rape.

Yes, you read that right. They are planning to redefine rape. 

Rape, they say, is only really rape if it involves 'force'.

But, you see, it's really not about rape. It's about abortion.

Stay with me now. I warned you. It's going to get pretty squirrely.

As Baumann reports,
There used to be a quasi-truce between the pro- and anti-choice forces on the issue of federal funding for abortion. Since 1976, federal law has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman.

But since last year, the anti-abortion side has become far more aggressive in challenging this compromise. They have been pushing to outlaw tax deductions for insurance plans that cover abortion, even if the abortion coverage is never used.
The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act"  - a bill with 173 'mostly Republican' co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a 'top priority' in the new Congress - contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to drastically limit the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

Here's where it gets squirrely.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape."

Yes, you heard that right. "Forcible rape".

I'll give you time to scratch your head as you ask, "So, what's 'non-forcible' rape?"

Remember, we're making this up as we go along because the point isn't really about rape - much less, God knows, justice or the law - but abortion.

Turns out, forcible rape has no formal definition under federal law, Baumann notes, but legal experts and abortion advocates told Baumann that, should the bill pass, the new wording would most likely prevent Medicaid from paying for abortions for victims of statutory rapes not involving the use of force.

Okay, let me slow that down and run that by you again.

That was "statutory rapes (generally understood as the rape of a child below the legal age of consent) not involving the use of force".

So, ahem, okay. Let me just ask an obvious question: If an act of rape with a child below the legal age of consent results in pregnancy, how could it not involve 'the use of force'?

Does that mean that if a child below the legal age of consent consents to the sex act, it's not rape because, well, your honor, she obviously wanted it even though she couldn't legally consent to it?

Cue Annie Hall, "I'm too tense. I need a Valium."

Baumann's sources also told him that the revised wording might also disallow funding of abortions in cases where perpetrators used date-rape drugs on their victims, or targeted mentally incapacitated women.

Some states have no definition of forcible rape on the books, calling into question whether any abortions would qualify for federal funding in such jurisdictions.

Incest victims would have to be younger than 18 in order to access Medicaid-funded abortions. The bill also denies tax credits to private insurance plans that pay for abortions.

Wait. Wait. Wait.


Incest is, well INCEST. It's wrong. At any age. And, don't these people know that part of why incest is illegal is that a pregnancy resulting from incest (when there is consanguinity) is always a recipe for serious birth defects?

Sweet mother of Jesus, have these people lost their minds? Or are they just intent on driving us all insane?

So, here's a little primer for The 'boyz and girlz in da House' to help them understand a little more about rape. Let's just call it:
"Rape 101: The basics".
Rape is not a sexual act. It is an act of violence. Sex is the weapon.

If a woman does not consent to sex, it's rape.

If a man has to drug a woman in order to have 'non forcible' sex with her, it's rape.

If a man has sex with a post-pubescent child under the legal age of consent, it is rape (and reprehensible).

If a man has sex with a pre-pubescent child who is obviously under the legal age of consent, it is child molestation and rape (and heinous).

If a man has sex with a person who is mentally incapacitated, it's rape (and evil).

If a woman is out on a date with a man and doesn't want to have sex but he does and threatens her in any way and she capitulates because she's afraid of him, it's still rape, even though she knows him or may have even known him for a number of years.

If a husband forces himself on his wife, it's still rape, even though they are married.

If a woman is dressed in what is considered "seductive attire" and declines to have sex, it's still rape and it's not her fault. She wasn't "asking for it."
As we used to say, way back in the 80s: "What part of 'no' don't you understand?

Isn't that ironic!?!?

"The Party of No" doesn't understand "No."

Abortion? Well, that's a different subject all together.  But, I promise - with my hand on a stack of bibles - that if you work to change the reasons women feel compelled to have an abortion - like poverty, lack of access to quality health care, education, reproductive rights - you will reduce the number of abortions. That includes the number of abortions paid for by the federal government.

I know. That's a lot more difficult than changing the definition of rape.

I'm not a lawyer (and I don't play one on TV), but it seems to me that diminishing the legal rights of all women which are designed to protect them against rape, in order to protect the rights of those who are not yet legally 'persons' is, well. . . it's not only bad law, it's an injustice.

Besides, if it was your daughter, Congressman/woman, who had been raped, I'm thinking you're not going to sit in the waiting room of the local hospital Emergency Room trying to discern whether or not it was 'forcible' or 'non forcible' rape.

I don't know about you, but I am sick unto death of "Coach Boehner" telling his "team" to try some fake passes, end runs and trying to "sack the quarterback" (the POTUS). It's a desperate, pathetic, dangerous game they're playing.

Even though House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has called the bill a "high priority", it seems unlikely that the Democratic-controlled Senate would approve the law.

President Obama would also undoubtedly veto the legislation if. . . and I think that's a Very Big "if". . . it made it to his desk.

High priority?

What happened to employment - finding jobs for people - being "high priority"?

What happened to the economy being a "high priority"?

What happened to the "high priority" of reducing the deficit?

And what the heck ever happened to the Republican "high priority" of staying the heck out of people's private lives?

One of my friends suggested that this bill is just a little something bright and shiny to distract the Tea Party folks and make them think the Republicans are really doing what they wanted them to do.

Even so, it might be time to pick up your telephone and call the office of your local Representative(s) to Congress and let him/her know what you think about this absurd piece of proposed legislation.

Here's your opening line: "Aw, nuts!"


whiteycat said...

Elizabeth, thank you for this post. I will do all that I can to counter this idiocy. That includes contacting my new Tea Party Representative. He did not get my vote -- trust me!

8thday said...

Thank you for this.

With your permission, I'd like to copy it to my Congress folk.

Matthew said...

The only part of this I disagree with is the statutory rape definition in some states. In many states the age of consent is 18. If a 17 year old girl and a 19 year old boy have sex, in some states it's rape, even if otherwise consensual. If he girl decides that an abortion is the best choice under the circumstances, then the boy goes to prison for 10 years even if the girl who was sexually active with him says it was not rape and does not want him to rot in prison. This is true whether the government pays for the abortion or not. We are so sex phobic in America that our age of consent laws have an age of consent that is several years older than those in Europe, Criminal justice activists have been bringing this to our attention for a number of years, especially in the media. There is an irony here. Republicans may have noticed this so this is now one of the so called "loopholes" they are trying to correct. We must resist it when they try to pit progressives against each other or use the evidence in one area that needs attention to create problems for other progressives in other areas. Not that progressives always agree either but personally I am in favor of federal funding of abortion as well as a rethinking of the definition of rape in some areas. The increased incarceration of American society as a whole, especially young black men, is also a feminist concern.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Of course

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Matthew - Then, the laws about a 17 year old girl and a 19 year old boy have to be changed in those states with that particular law on the book. Or, the girl and boy have to be smart enough to use preventative methods so pregnancy does not result.

Rape laws many well need to be re-examimed, state by state, but not for the purpose of doing an end run around federal funding for abortion. SHEESH!

And, I agree with you about incarceration laws, which is not only a feminist concern, it's a concern for everyone.

Ahab said...

An excellent post. If anti-abortion legislators were serious about reducing abortions, they would focus on reducing unwanted pregnancy through comprehensive sex education, access to family planning services, poverty reduction, etc. Instead, they want to burden rape victims who had the misfortune of being impregnated by their attackers. It's unwise and unjust.

Of course, one could argue that this isn't really about abortion -- it's about controlling women's bodies. And that's disheartening.

JCF said...

Turns out, forcible rape has no formal definition under federal law

Well, that won't stop them.

"Partial birth abortion" didn't even exist in medical terminology, yet they (GOP) forced (!) it into Federal law (upheld by the GOP Supreme Court).

The language means what they say it means (thank you, Alice---or was that the Red Queen?).

There are times I really want to declare my independence: "I live in the State of Nonwingnuttia, your laws have no power over me."

Bex said...

I think the "shiny object" theory is correct. I often wonder what these folks would do if abortion were made illegal in all 50 states, not that that would stop it, of course. I guess the anti-choice politicians would just think up more and more draconian punishments for women and providers and run on how tough and moral they were. Needless to say, anyone with the cash would be able to send their daughter out of the country. As I recall, that was a popular solution before Roe. As an aside, I read yesterday that in nations with universal healthcare the abortion rate is quite a bit lower than in the U.S. But that would deprive the politicians here of a lucrative fund-raising issue, wouldn't it? Not that I'm cynical or anything.

susankay said...

Sadly, they feel they have to do this crap because "social issues" are the way they lure blue collar Americans into voting against their own economic/political self-interest by voting Republican.

William said...

Hi Elizabeth, thanks for this post. I was wondering if we could amend "Rape 101" to reflect that people of all gender identities can be victims of rape? I understand that the post was written in the context of this abortion debate, but even so, that's a pretty important distinction for me.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You're absolutely right, William. I tried to be more "inclusive" in the language of some of the points, b/c I was thinking just that, but I was discussing this within the context of abortion.

Predatory sex which almost always results in rape is wrong in any circumstance.

Elaine C. said...

Sounds like an academic advisor I had years ago -- who told me that any woman who didn't keep a large piece of furniture between her and him -- had given him permission to touch her -- however he wanted to ... Or a fellow seminarian who insisted to me that women always lie, they don't mean no -- and if they really mean no, then they would not be in the same room with him. Both these men used their logic to justify grabbing, groping and more ... of women -- and their own brand of warped self-righteousness.

All of the above -- from these stupid proposed laws, to the inability of the systems (university and seminary) -- to stop the actions of these men and call their behavior illegal -- needs to be changed. Long ago when I sought help and support and tried to fight ... my voice was ignored and belittled.

As a woman, I tend to see it as patriarchy, a deep love of having power over other people, and a lack of love for others, or any awareness of what following Christ really means ...

Yes, I'll write my representatives, and yes I'll scream in frustration.

Anonymous said...

They are gearing up for the 2012 presidential race. The proposal appears to be geared, as Matthew suggested, to re-define statutory rape in order that girls under 18, that have consentual sex with their boyfriends that are over 18 (defined as statutory rape in many states, ie. 17 year old female with 19 year old male), will not be able to get an abortioin paid for by the state. Ironically this should really be a state issue not a federal issue. I guess the Republican forgot about states rights here. Hummm....