Under the circumstances, this headline is only exaggerated in the sense that John Boehner & Co. have no known plans to shrink themselves and march up the skirts of American women everywhere. Less literal interpretations apply perfectly, however, to a new law the Republican party, specifically the blood-lustey Republican Representatives who hold a majority in the House, is trying to foist onto, by all accounts, an outraged female constituency.If you use Twitter or read other ladyblogs, there’s a good chance you already know about the #dearjohn protest Sady Doyle has organized in an attempt to rally resistance against proposed, Republican-sponsored bill H.R.3, or the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” The bill is being widely reported, by both conservative and liberal news sources, as attempting to “redefine rape,” because it seeks to overrule the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which allows for federal funding to be used to cover or offset the cost of abortions in the cases of pregnant rape and incest victims.
Because no one, not even the GOP, wants to actually come right out and say they want to abolish all abortions, even for rape/incest survivors, H.R.3 is hanging its hat on a small word: “forcible.” The bill would legislate that only women who have been forcibly raped would be allowed to write the medical costs of their abortion off on their taxes or pay for the procedure with Medicaid or any other government-funded healthcare plan, including Tricare (which, FYI, already denies military women and dependants coverage to abort pregnancies that didn’t result from rape or incest).
There isn’t, nor has there every been, a legal definition of “forcible rape.” Using that qualifying, open-ended terminology automatically puts the burden on the victim to prove that she was violated enough, that she fought back enough, that she was acting chaste and abstaining from alcohol and drugs enough. Naturally, this feeds into a rape culture that encourages women to remain silent because “no one will believe you.” If H.R.3 becomes law, that culturally pervasive attitude will be codified into our legal system, a truly terrifying thought.
In addition to the “forcible” tomfuckery, H.R.3 includes a clause that would disallow individuals and companies who purchase health insurance policies with abortion coverage from claiming the requisite tax break. Ultimately, that would force people to stop buying those policies and insurance companies to quit providing them altogether.
Michelle Goldberg at the Daily Beast sums up my concern pretty well:
[H.R.3] demonstrates a startling new extremism in the GOP. In the past, even the most resolutely antiabortion Republicans usually made exceptions for rape and for life-threatening medical emergencies. H.R. 3 is the product of a House willing to jettison even those minor protections for women … Now that many [conservative candidates] have won, we’ll see more attempts to radically curtail reproductive rights … H.R. 3 is the product of a party that is willing to go much further than most people realize to force women to bear children against their will.
Personally, one of the things I find most galling about H.R.3 is how (I suspect purposefully) vague it is. You can read the bill, which clocks in at a mere 1,200 words, and you can re-read the bill, but you still won’t have any inkling what Republicans intend “forcible” to mean or what yardstick would be employed to measure rape victims’ likelihood of having been forced.You would think that if a party were seriously trying to protect government assets by introducing a new and improved definition for a crime as old as human life, they would take the time to explain, in excruciating detail, what they mean.
Also: 1,200 MEASLY WORDS? REALLY?! WRITING MORE THAN TWO PAGES MUST HAVE BEEN EXHAUSTING. TRY HARDER, REPUBLICANS.
Sorry. I just can’t believe we are paying these people six-figure salaries to propose legislation that looks like it was drafted on their lunch hour and is so transparently the beginning of a social agenda that ought to be on the back burner, especially now, of all times, and especially in light of how much complaining the GOP has done about the economy and jobs and how Obama is a socialist who ruins everything and isn’t magically fixing our $1.5 trillion national debt fast enough for them.
So, in an attempt to bring this whole meandering post full-circle: let’s talk about Sady Doyle and #dearjohn. You can read the full text of Sady’s post about H.R.3 and the inception of #dearjohn, but I’ve also culled some highlights right here:
That’s right, kids: It’s time to make the Internet a big, scary problem for some sexists, once again …Right now, we’re Tweeting at the Boehner – oh, look! Here he is – and at all of our representatives, and we’re going to keep Tweeting, to tell them that this bill is an attack on the rights of survivors everywhere, and that it will not stand. We’re Tweeting to say that all rape is rape. We’re Tweeting to tell them the many ways that this leaves women open to attack and reproductive coercion. We’re Tweeting to tell them that the exemption for cases of rape and incest must stand, and that it must apply in all cases. We’re Tweeting to tell them that we will not support them if they back it, we will not support them if they “compromise” on “just this one thing” – the rights and dignity of rape survivors are never to be compromised, under any circumstances – and they will not be able to push this redefinition of rape forward.
So I propose that, if you all haven’t already jumped on this bandwagon, we join forces with Ms. Doyle and the hundreds of feminists already tweeting Boehner and writing letters to their Congressional representative. If we all stick our thumbs in this pie, it’ll be even cooler than when the Planeteers join their powers together to summon Captain Planet.
I already know for a fact that my Congressional Rep. is signed onto this soon-to-be sinking ship, so later today I’m going to write him a letter and come back to post it here, as well as keep you all updated with interesting Tweets and any news of response from Boehner or other Republicans.
And please, if you participate, link to tweets/emails in the comments or PM me if you have something longer you’d like put up in the body of this post. You guys are awesome–I’m really looking forward to discussing/sharing more about this in the comments.