Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What You Should Know About H.R. 3: The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”

No On 3 Yesterday, like most Mondays, began with the best of work-related intentions. But, again like most Mondays, I veered off and something else totally took up the majority of my day. Instead of diving head-first into a black hole of Netflix, playing video games, or actually working on my other site (also known as my more-than full-time job), I got sucked into Twitter in a big, bad way.

Within about an hour of opening my eyes, picking up my computer and starting in on my workday, I saw the Twitter hashtag #DearJohn repeatedly appear in my timeline.

Created by Sady Doyle, who was also behind the #mooreandme protest and is nothing short of a hashtag activism superhero, #DearJohn was created as a response to the newly-introduced H.R. 3 bill — the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

This terribly problematic bill is sponsored by Chris Smith, a vehemently anti-choice Representative of New Jersey, and co-sponsored by 68.5% of the new (Republican-led) Congress. With numbers like these, this is not simply a bill that has been introduced with little to no support as a politician’s pipe dream of stripping women of their right to a safe and legal abortion. John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House and mouthpiece of the new Congress, has dubbed this bill “top priority.” This is something that could very well become a reality. Who knew Margaret Atwood was writing of what could become of the future of women in America when she penned The Handmaid’s Tale.

The wording of the title of this bill is a lesson in classic anti-choice tactics. It is deceptive. “No taxpayer funding for abortion” says to people who identify as pro-life, as well as those who aren’t necessarily against abortion, but have anti-choice leaning views about it, that if this bill was to go into effect their hard-earned tax dollars would not go towards funding abortions. Anti-choice and anti-choice leaning folks agree with this sentiment, though certain federal funds have not gone towards funding abortions for women who could not otherwise afford one since the 1970s when the Hyde Amendment was enacted. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act really does is so much more, and worse, than that. It goes far enough where if you have any compassion for women and most notably, rape victims, you should wholeheartedly oppose this bill at all costs.

Here is a breakdown of what the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act will do:

  • Redefine rape
    The federal law, as it is seen and goes into effect today, does not use federal tax dollars to cover abortion unless it is an unwanted pregnancy resulting in rape or incest, or if the pregnant woman’s health or life is at risk. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, the rape exception would only cover “forcible” rape. Ironically enough, the word “forcible” is not defined in the bill. What this means is that if a minor child who is, say, 13 years old, is coerced into a sexual relationship with a man who is not a minor, let’s just say he’s 40, and that girl becomes pregnant as a result of that rape, well, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is drugged and then raped, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is unconscious and is rapes, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is mentally disabled and cannot consent to sexual activity and is raped, that rape doesn’t count.
  • Put an age restriction on incest
    If a woman is raped by her father, brother, uncle, grandfather or a member of their family, and she is 18 years old, she cannot use federal funds in order to obtain her abortion. Also, let’s say a 17-year-old girl is raped by her father and she is just shy of her eighteenth birthday. If she was raped when she was 17, but is seeking an abortion when she is 18, would she be eligible? I suppose that’s up to the Rep. Chris Smith and John Boehner Official Rape Panel to decide.
  • Remove the exception for women’s health
    This bill will allow federal funds to cover abortion if — and only if — a physician certifies that the pregnancy will kill her. If continuing her pregnancy will damage her organs in some way or she will become terribly ill, having to live on medications, dialysis, in a wheelchair or what-have-you for the rest of her life, she will not get coverage because that isn’t life-threatening.
  • Require government to continue funding agencies and programs that discriminate against women and endanger women’s health
    Currently, it is law that doctors and nurses do not have to provide elective abortion services, nor are health care facilities required to offer abortion services. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, these facilities are given free reign to discriminate when it comes to a woman’s reproductive health care by in addition to not providing abortions, also refusing to refer women to other health care facilities, agencies and programs that do and the government cannot withdraw funds. Due to the GOP’s constant attack on all of women’s reproductive health choices, abortion is being regularly redefined to include emergency contraception and even birth control, which could also be affected by this bill.
  • Cut tax benefits to organizations and/or individuals who select an insurance policy that covers abortion
    Today, most private health insurers cover abortion services. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, tax subsidies that are given to small business owners and individuals who purchase insurance that covers abortion would be cut. This bill would, in fact, ensure that all private insurance companies stop covering abortion services, even when abortions are medically necessary.

This bill has given me some serious Whoopi Goldberg on the topic of Roman Polanski “rape rape” flashbacks. I am highly uncomfortable with — and downright refuse to allow — a group of men to sit around and dictate to women and girls of this country what, exactly, constitutes real rape. Rape that matters. Rape that counts.

The reason why I was so provoked to speak up on Twitter, on Facebook and on this blog, and gladly give up a day’s work, is because this bill is a blatant, shameless attack on women and girls who are already marginalized and stigmatized in this country. More than half of the rapes that occur in this country go unreported. The reason for this is because there is already too much in the way of rape survivors who report their attacks. In rape cases, it isn’t the rapist who is ever on trial, it’s the victim. It is the victim who is asked:

“What were you wearing?”
“How much alcohol did you consume?”
“How many people have you had sexual relationships with?”
“How frequently do you go out partying?”
“Did you previously know the man you’re accusing of raping you?”
“Have you ever been sexually active with that man before that night?”
“Were you flirting with that man or giving him mixed signals to make him think you enjoyed his advances?”
“How many times did you say no?”
“Did you try to fight him off of you?”

And the list goes on and on.

Rape cases, as they are prosecuted in this country, are fed to a jury as a woman filing charges after experiencing “buyer’s remorse” and it is an ugly, misogynistic process. Until we stop putting the victim on trial and actually start giving rape and sexual assault survivors the justice they so rightly deserve, we will not see an increase in people reporting their attacks.

Another reason why I feel so strongly about doing whatever I can to spread the word about this bill and how downright wrong, unjust, and shameful for women and girls is because this bill could have affected me. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault and multiple rape, this bill could have limited my rights to reproductive health care and services that I could have needed as a result of my attacks. Who are Chris Smith, John Boehner, any of the 68.5% of Boehner’s caucus, or anyone who actually supports this attack on the female gender, to tell me that my attacks weren’t real; that the extreme, traumatic and mental-illness-inducing violations of my being, when I was a child and again when I was a teenager, didn’t matter or didn’t count?

They can’t. No one can. We won’t let them.

For information on how to make your voice heard and stop the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act read here.

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  1. […] billion in cuts and they have successfully divided the House in two over their vendetta agenda to completely defund a legitimate, legal and lifesaving healthcare organization that millions of Americans depend on every […]

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