This piece is reposted with the permission of Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon. I highly recommend Pandagon as a must read Feminist Blog.
Amanda Marcotte *
January 30, 2011
HR3, misleadingly named the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, is a perfect storm of everything that’s nasty about the modern, hyper-conservative Republican party. It’s dishonest, since women who have federal health insurance are already banned from using that money for abortion care. This bill is actually an attempt to shut down abortion coverage through all private insurance, including employer-provided insurance, which means that it’s beyond even the dreadful Stupak-Pitts amendment/executive order. Some “small government”. As Rachel Maddow documented, this bill is just the most egregious example of how the GOP basically hoodwinked the voters. They ran on “creating jobs”, which they clearly have no intention of doing, since they’re going to be too busy looking for ways to put the screws to everyone they hate, a long list that includes poor people, people who read a lot, gays, and basically all women, but especially the most vulnerable in our society.
Which is why they rushed out this bill, which I’d call the “Economic Crisis Is A Good Time To Rain Hell On American Women In Need Act”. In fact, John Boehner called this bill a “top priority”. We have 10% unemployment, but making sure that abortions are only a privilege for those who can pay out of pocket on a moment’s notice is the GOP’s top priority.
Sadly, the mainstream media (outside of a handful of awesome fighters, like Rachel Maddow, Nicholas Kristof, and Bob Herbert) has gotten inured to relentless attacks on women from conservatives, and subsequently fail to properly understand that a bill like this is pure misogyny, with a giant side dose of class warfare. They’ve failed to cover the nefarious workings of Rep. Chris Smith from New Jersey, who competes regularly in the heavy competition in Congress for the title Biggest Misogynist, and who has made a special pet project out of trying to shut down any foreign aid that would include contraception, and who has accused Secretary Clinton of being a friend to child rapists because she believes child rape victims should get medical care. But as you’ll see, Chris Smith is actually the worst enemy in Congress a minor victim of rape could have, starting with the fact that he seems to believe they’re lying sluts who need to be punished.
Smith’s egregious misogyny is why this bill, HR3, has a strong chance of getting more media attention and political pushback than we initially thought it would. See, on top of the usual routine of denying abortion services to the most vulnerable, exploiting a terrible economic situation to make people’s lives even worse, and straight up lying, Smith also decided to wedge one more pet project into this bill, which is rape apologism. And that is what finally broke everyone’s capacity to put up with this shit anymore.
See, HR3 has—like the Hyde Amendment—a provision in it that carves out an exception for rape, incest, and the health/life of the mother. But because anti-choicers like Smith are such ruthless misogynists, they tend to believe the misogynist stereotype that all women, especially those who claim to be ill or victims of crimes, are lying whores until proven otherwise. Or just lying whores, regardless of the evidence they produce. And so, to make sure those lying whores don’t get their hands on those delicious, orgasm-inducing uterine scrapings, the bill has language in it that, in essence, assumes that 70% of rape victims weren’t really raped. The exception is only for “forcible rape”, which is vaguely defined, but in practice tends to mean that anything short of getting your ass beat down means you weren’t “really” raped. Even if you’re a 13-year-old who was impregnated by a 30-year-old. Also, if you happen to get pregnant by your abusive, rape-y father on your 18th birthday, you will get no funding to make sure you don’t give birth to your own brother. Consent is implied if you’re female under these guidelines, and consent to sex with your male relatives is implied the second you turn 18.
Functionally, rape exceptions to abortion bans (or, in this case, bans on private funding of abortion) are useless, because you have to fill out all this paperwork that then gets shuffled around until it’s too late and you’re forced, out of desperation, to pay out of pocket. The example of the Hyde Amendment is a good one. The conservative estimate puts the number of rape-caused abortions at 9,100 a year. 42% of women who have abortions are at or below the federal poverty line. Another 27% make up to 199% of the federal poverty level, which still makes them low income, since 199% of the federal poverty level is $21500 for a single woman with no children. But, of course, most women who get abortions already have children. I don’t know what percentage of women who have abortions are on or eligible for Medicaid, but these number should give you a solid indication that it’s a lot. And yet Medicaid only pays for about 80-90 abortions a year, and I’m guessing that most of those are health exceptions that are easier to document. Should this bill go into law, that means that basically no one, rich or poor or in-between, would get insurance coverage for abortions required because they were raped.
Functionally, there is no rape exception when there’s a “rape exception”. If you’re raped, and abortion is restricted to people of your class, rape exceptions are meaningless. You could define rape as broadly as you wanted, and still the number of women who’d get past the exception would be virtually none. The only real result of narrowing the definition of “rape” to exclude women who were asleep, drugged, cornered with little chance of escape, minor children, and basically anyone who didn’t fight within an inch of her life is mostly symbolic, and what it symbolizes is support for rape culture and hatred of women, particularly rape victims. It’s the GOP (and some anti-choice Democrats) signing off on the idea that you asked for it. And because you’re a bad girl who asks for it, you should be punished further with forced childbirth. Even if you’re a child.
When you’re trying to fight rape culture, it’s a real setback to have all these powerful political leaders basically say that the majority of rape victims weren’t really raped, because they were still walking after the fact.
This needless kicking women after you’ve pushed them down has pushed Sady Doyle into starting another online campaign against HR3. If you want to join, please tweet against it with the hashtag #dearjohn, and please direct letters and tweet replies towards your representatives. There are many angles to work this: the rape angle, the GOP’s consistent hostility to rape victims, the class warfare angle, the fact that the GOP is prioritizing attacking women over creating jobs, etc.
One thing I do want to note is that the blog posts and tweets I’ve seen on this so far have mostly concentrated on Medicaid and recipients of government aid for health care. I definitely think that’s great; we need to highlight how abortion restrictions are always about class warfare, because safe abortions are usually not that hard for privileged women to get, even on the black market. But this bill is not just an assault on the neediest. It’s actually a restriction on all insurance coverage for abortion. Which is bad enough, but with these rape restrictions, it’s a nightmare. I don’t care if you’re a millionaire; paying out of pocket for an abortion after you’ve been raped to satisfy the sadistic urges of some anti-choice asshole in Congress is still awful. But beyond that, it’s important to understand this this isn’t an either/or issue. That someone isn’t on Medicaid or even that she has employer-provided insurance doesn’t mean she’s swimming in privilege and can simply pay cash for an abortion at the drop of a hat. Many Americans work full time for piss-poor wages; with the economy in tatters, that’s even more true. A lot of people work 40+ hours a week in the service industry, which means they get insurance, but they may only make $10 an hour. For those people, the difference between having insurance coverage for abortion and not can often mean the difference between being able to have a savings account or not, or being able to make rent that month or not, or being able to eat okay for that month or not.
My point is to fill this out a little. Abortion is about class warfare, and it’s about saying women don’t have a right to decent, safe medical care if they’re sexually active. This is an assault on all women, but especially the most vulnerable—women living paycheck to paycheck, rape victims, women in abusive relationships (even with relatives), young women. And with this rape angle, we have the proof in hand of how misogynist this really is, so please go forward and spread the word. And write your congress critters.
*Amanda Marcotte’s blog is Pandagon She is the author of: It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments and Get Opinionated: A Progressive’s Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action)