Bill restricting abortion draws outrage for ‘re-defining rape’

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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A bill sponsored by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, and supported by pro-life advocates and 173 congressmen, to further restrict federal funding of abortion is alarming pro-choice advocates.

The bill would deny tax credits to companies that allow employees to have abortion coverage on their insurance plans. Exemptions for rape, incest, and the health of a mother would be narrowed.

The re-definition of rape has drawn particular outrage.

MoveOn.org has launched a petition campaign to oppose the bill. It sent an alert to supporters Tuesday saying that the bill “could redefine rape and set women’s rights back by decades.”

The alert cited a New York Times editorial that said the bill “would allow federal financing of abortions in cases of ‘forcible’ rape but not statutory or coerced rape.”

Mother Jones wrote that under the changes, many forms of rape could be exempted from abortion coverage, including if a woman was “drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol” or in cases including “rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes.”

In an interview with the Raw Story, Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, “to suggest that there is some kind of rape that would be okay to force a woman to carry the resulting pregnancy to term, and abandon the principle that has been long held, an exception that has been settled for 30 years, is to me a violent act against women in and of itself.”

Wasserman Schultz also said, “Rape is when a woman is forced to have sex against her will, and that is whether she is conscious, unconscious, mentally stable, not mentally stable.”

The controversy revolves around a yet-undefined standard for “forcible rape.” Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post wrote Wednesday that he and others have not received a response from the bill’s sponsor on a precise definition.