Turns out the reports about the demise of the House GOP’s attempt to redefine rape are premature — a Tuesday hearing on Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-N.J.) No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act, H.R. 3, in the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution revealed that the “forcible rape” language remains in the legislation. The language also remains in two other bills, H.R. 358 — the Protect Life Act — and H.R. 105 — the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2011 — both of which are working their way through House committees.
Like many girls, I didn’t just get a talk about the birds and the bees. There was also a talk about being careful not to get into a situation where one could be physically “taken advantage of,” and how to handle unsolicited/unwanted sexual advances, including what to do when a guy won’t take no for an answer. The message was clear: Whether she knows it or not, every woman and girl has a right to say no, and being forced to have sex is rape. Period. So the suggestion by the GOP that the act of rape itself is not “forcible” begs a question: Do they really believe that a woman doesn’t know when she’s been raped, requiring a kind of 1-10 rating system, where 1 is “not so bad” and 10 is “forcible”? That’s like suggesting to a female victim of domestic violence that her abuser really didn’t mean to hurt her when he broke her jaw.
For example, under the proposed legislation, any small business that makes available, or any individual who purchases, a healthcare plan that covers the legal procedure of abortion would no longer be eligible for tax breaks despite using his or her own private funds. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that up to 4 million small businesses are currently eligible for these tax breaks. Or let’s say you use money from a private health savings account to pay for the legal procedure of abortion — those funds become taxable, thereby raising taxes on individuals who are using their own private funds.
As Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) also pointed out, the GOP’s line of reasoning suggests that tax exemptions are a form of government funding, in which case the federal government cannot give tax exemptions, or “funding,” to religious institutions. Which opens the door to a re-examination of the tax-exempt status for churches, synagogues and mosques as well as any charity or business that receives tax exemptions.
Lastly, as proposed, these bills create a new “separate but equal” status for women, through what’s referred to as the “let women die” provision. It may sound hyperbolic and extreme at first, but read the details and it becomes frighteningly accurate. Under current law — the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), passed in 1986 — hospitals are required to provide emergency life-saving treatment to anyone, regardless of his or her ability to pay, legal status, etc. Traditionally, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have made it unlikely that a hospital would not abide by EMTALA. The latest provision introduced by the Republicans undercuts this law, saying that a doctor can refuse to treat a pregnant woman or let her die, even if aborting the fetus is required to save her life. This provision is also a direct contradiction to the Hippocratic oath a doctor takes when he or she promises to “apply for the benefit of the sick all measures that are required.”
Again, following the GOP’s logic, while a woman should be able to expect full protection under the law, she would not get the equal protection a man requiring a life-saving procedure would. The doctor she goes to could legally choose to let her die.
Regardless of how one feels about whether a woman has the right to make her own choices and decisions about her healthcare, we should all be concerned about both the GOP’s willingness to break its campaign promises within weeks and its reliance on flawed, hypocritical and contradictory logic that would raise taxes and expand the reach of the federal government at the expense of women’s health and well-being.
Karen Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant.