The Super Bowl is today, and Ben Roethlisberger is center stage as the most hated person in the game as a result of his multiple rape charges. The issue of rape has been in the news for more than just that reason this week as the GOP made an effort to change the definition of rape in order to decrease the federal funding given to abortions. The pro-life crusade of the republicans has always targeted this funding, but this time they put many women at risk with their redefinition of rape from simply “rape” to “forcible rape.” This definition of rape would exclude cases in which the woman was drugged or drunk, as well as cases where the woman was mentally disabled or raped while on a date (via here). Statutory rape would also not be covered unless it was also an instance of incest, but incest among legal adults would not be covered (via here).

The GOP has taken this kind of a stance with much more success in the area of sex education. Making the case that abstinence only education would be more likely to prevent teenage sex and pregnancy, policies were in place since the late 1990s which only granted specific kinds of funding to schools that used abstinence only education as their sex education. This changed with the inauguration of the Obama administration, and the new president promptly granted large amounts of funding to schools so they could offer comprehensive sex education to students.

In the case of sex education funding, I would argue that kids are going to have sex before marriage/before age 18 for any number of reasons, whether or not they receive any kind of sex education. I am not sure if there are any studies on this, but I would be curious to see the numbers relating teen sex/pregnancy to the home environment and whether or not sex education was happening at home. Either way if a teen is going to have sex, they are either going to be responsible or they aren’t and most should know where they can get their hands on condoms or other birth control methods. So the GOP policies here were not helpful, but they were not necessarily hurtful either.

However when we turn to rape restrictive policies on funding could be hurtful beyond measure. Essentially what republicans are saying is that, a la “welfare moms,” rape victims may just be lying in order to get funding to dispose of the “baby.” For the few that may be abusing the system, there would be an innumerable amount of women who would be up a creek without a paddle. In this situation there would also be women with children they would not have had otherwise, in need of assistance that the GOP is also not willing to vote for. Watch this clip from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to see how crazy this actually is.

If I was a Congresswoman and I had to decide between giving too much funding to assist victims of rape who become pregnant, or less funding to victims and only certain victims who become pregnant get help, it seems as though it makes sense to help all victims to avoid the danger of discrimination. Also, not only would I be charged with defending the constitution but also the people in the United States. If one of the ultimate forms of violation also results in a pregnancy, it should be the woman’s decision to abort or not, and the government should assist as a way of protecting her from the physical, financial, and emotional hardships that come with a child that she did not ask for.

Luckily GOP leaders helped to change this wording from “forcible rape” to just “rape” since all rape is by definition forced. However, new information on this bill has come to light. The bill will allow physicians to legally refuse care to women if it would endanger the life of the fetus. Jason Linkins from the Huffington Post accurately summarizes the act’s override of physicians’ charge to care for everyone  regardless of identity or ability to pay:

(It) gives doctors the green light to let pregnant women die if they have a life-threatening condition and need an emergency abortion. We know that women’s lives have been saved by abortion (and that some number of people don’t approve of the whole life-saving thing). It’s not surprising that a few religious blow-hards think it’s better for women to die instead of receiving therapeutic abortions, but to encode the view that you don’t have to save a pregnant woman’s life into federal law? That is truly sick — and shockingly cruel, even for the usual “pro-life” suspects who regularly use their ideology as a tool to punish women.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, although I would replace “punish women” with “control women”. Hopefully this bill will not pass.

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