No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act changed after public backlash
The bill faced criticism after distinguishing between "rape" and "forcible rape."
Feb. 08, 2011
In stride with their promise to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the House Republican Majority introduced a bill to limit federal funding of abortions.
The bill, called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, initially received harsh criticism from pro-choice and women's rights groups for its wording.
In its original form, the bill distinguished eligibility for government funding of an abortion based on whether a woman had been a victim of "rape" or "forcible rape". The bill stated federal funds would only be granted for abortion: "(I)f the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest" (section 309).
This means victims of incest who are above the age of 18 as well as victims of date rape and statutory rape would not be eligible to receive government funding for an abortion under the proposal.
In response to fierce opposition to what some saw as a redefinition of rape, the bill's wording has been changed to match that of the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 amendment that prohibits government funding of abortion except in the case of rape, incest or severe and physical health damage to the mother.
The amendment is supported by Senator Claire McCaskill, whose press secretary Laura Myron stated that McCaskill is against using taxpayer money to fund elective abortions.
Lauren Olson, Co-President of the Feminist Student Union, said the omission of the term "forcible rape" is a testament to the power of activism.
"They've taken out the damaging language due to pro-choice activists, and I think that's notable," Olson said. "It shows that people who support women's rights have a voice."
She said that although the questionable language has been removed, the bill still would be harmful to women.
"Unfortunately, it's still a bill limiting access to a legal procedure," Olson said. "The change in wording only made it a little less awful. It puts further constraints on access to something that is already difficult for many people to get."
Olson said she thinks the bill indicates and perpetuates a broader problem in our nation's perception of rape.
"The new restrictions will further convolute the conversation about rape in this nation, making it more difficult to prevent things like date rape." she said.