Friday, January 28, 2011

The Republican Definition of Rape

It has to be forcible, to qualify for a federally funded abortion:
Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But 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 limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
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." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
Because the term "forcible" is one without proper definition, lots of other types of rape might not qualify, either. For instance, raping someone who is drugged, raping a mentally handicapped person who doesn't know how to resist, raping a paralyzed patient in a hospital. Most types of date rapes would not qualify.

I had this sudden flash in my head where I imagined some Republican politician agreeing to model this definition for us. I could do various things to him and then he would say when I had crossed into the area of "forcible" rape. And we'd write that down on a piece of paper.

Which means that I find the whole topic truly repulsive. Of course what it really is about is the view that women lie about rape and that wily women will try to get federally funded abortions for just your basic sex-gone-bad.

That's why you have to have an eye gouged out to prove that you are raped and that's why mental illness cannot be seen as the kind of health threat that would justify federally funded abortions as life-saving. Women lie, you know. And in any case, mental illness leaves the uterus perfectly functioning.

As Atrios points out, the exemptions for rape and incest have always been based on something else than the forced-birth idea that human life begins when the sperm is properly housed in the egg. That would demand no exemptions at all. Even the case where the woman will die would be one where we just let the fetus and the woman duke it out.

But that view naturally results in the treatment of all women as aquaria, to be kept clean and under inspections, in case they have a sperm swimming in them.

Where the American legal concepts went wrong was in adopting the idea of privacy as the basis for legal abortions. The proper concept would have been equality, because an aquarium cannot be equal to a person.