Many Democrats in the past year have accused their Republican opponents of not caring about rape victims.
First, the Massachusetts Democratic party sent out a mailer during the Senate campaign claiming that "1,736 women were raped in Massachusetts in 2008. Scott Brown wants hospitals to turn them all away." In a TV ad, Alan Grayson accused his Republican opponent of trying to "deny battered women medical care." The Georgia Democratic party cut an ad accusing GOP gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal of fighting to "weaken the rape shield law."
"Ken Buck refused to prosecute a rape case even though the attacker confessed," said the narrator of one Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ad targeting the GOP Colorado Senate candidate.
Of course, all of these attacks were false. And now some congressional Democrats are accusing Republicans (as well as pro-life Democrats) of trying to "redefine" rape through the "No Taxpayer-Funding of Abortion Act," sponsored by Chris Smith (R, N.J.) and Dan Lipinski (D, Ill.).
The bill would, like the Hyde amendment that applies to Medicaid and Medicare, establish a government-wide ban on taxpayer-funding for abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is endangered. Because the bill says that funding is only allowed for "forcible" rape, some Democrats say that would change the definition of rape, as to exclude both statutory rape and rape that occurs when a woman is incapacitated.
"It is absolutely outrageous," said Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "I consider the proposal of this bill a violent act against women.... 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."
But the legislation does not in any way "suggest that some kind of rape that would be okay." There is absolutely no evidence that the legislation would "redefine" rape as to exclude a case in which an incapacitated woman is sexually assaulted. As Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee says, it would merely codify the longstanding interpretation of the Hyde amendment regarding statutory rape:
“We do not believe that the Hyde Amendment has ever been construed to permit federal funding of abortion based merely on the youth of the mother (“statutory rape”), nor are we aware of evidence that federal funding of abortion in such cases has ever been the practice,” Johnson explained. “It is true that the new bills would not allow general federal funding of abortion on all under-age pregnant girls — but this is no change in policy.”
And, if you cut through the snark and the contempt for pro-lifers in this post, Time magazine's Amy Sullivan makes the same point:
Eligibility rules under the Hyde exceptions differ by state, but many states are like Tennessee, which requires a doctor to certify that "there is credible evidence to believe that the pregnancy is the result of rape" and to attach "documentation from a law enforcement agency indicating the patient has made a credible report as the victim of incest or rape" before Medicaid will consider issuing payment for an abortion procedure [...]
So that scourge of false rape reports--or even, let's say, "non-forcible" rapes? It doesn't exist. I couldn't find numbers more recent than 2001, but these shocked me. In that year, the total number of abortions covered by Medicaid was 56. That's all abortions for cases in which the mother's life was in danger, the pregnancy was a result of incest, or in the case of rape.
So the the word "forcible," therefore, appears to be a redundancy, as far as this law is concerned, and is likely to be stripped since its primary purpose now is to smear pro-lifers and divert attention from legislation that is supported by about two-thirds of American voters.
But even if they change the language, it probably won't be too long until Democrats find another reason to link Republicans to rape.