Smith Bill Update: Rape Redefinition Removed

February 3, 2011

Chalk one up to the many activists, organizations and political commentators who took on Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for their attempt to redefine rape as part of a new bill Smith introduced, the “No Tax Payer Funding for Abortion Act” [PDF]. As originally drafted, the bill proposed to narrow the Medicaid funding exception that currently provides coverage for abortions in the case of rape to only cover a new category of “forcible” rape. Now, after five days of whirlwind outrage, such as the #DearJohn Twitter campaign and Jon Stewart’s segment on “Rape Rape” vs. “Rapish” (below), the clause was finally removed this morning.

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Let’s not breathe a sigh of relief yet. There is so much yet left to challenge in the Smith Bill that would damage our ability to determine what happens to our bodies. The “forcible rape” clause was only one in a series of attacks on our reproductive and health options, especially for young people, low income people, and people of color.

The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), and the Reproductive Health Technologies Project (RHTP) released a statement that calls the bill on its racist ramifications.

This bill would strip a woman of her right to decide which options best suit her health care needs and would add cruel restrictions for victims of sexual violence. Access to abortion is critically important for women of color and immigrant women who are disproportionally poor. Presently, 25% of poor women who want to choose abortion can’t because the federal government refuses to pay for it.

Among a slew of other attacks on women’s access to healthcare, the bill would destroy private insurance coverage of abortion with broad reaching impact.

Mother Jones explains that although the proposal “has a stated aim of making the Hyde Amendment (a rule that has to be renewed every year that prohibits federal funding of abortions through Medicaid) into permanent, government-wide law” it could be “a Trojan horse for the elimination of private insurance coverage for abortion.” Specifically,

Smith’s bill would create a huge incentive for employers to only offer health insurance that doesn’t cover abortion. Insurers would respond to what their customers wanted, and the percentage of health plans offering abortion coverage—currently 86 percent—would undoubtedly plummet.

…The employer tax exemption for health insurance is the government’s largest tax expenditure. It affects nearly every American who gets health insurance through their employers. If the abortion rights advocates are right, the tax section of Smith’s bill would affect far more people (and more money) than any other portion of the law.

We need to see this win — the removal of the “forcible rape” clause — as only the first step of many in knocking apart the Smith bill. My greatest fear is that we allow ourselves to celebrate or to be distracted: this is not a compromise. As a community of activists who care about protecting the health and well-being of the people who are most vulnerable to the harsh impacts of abusive legislation, we need to see the larger picture.

Every part of this bill is a systematic attack on our access to safe, high quality and affordable healthcare, and we need to sustain our efforts to change it.

Posted in: Blog, Healthcare, NLIRH, Reproductive Justice

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by A Long Walk Home, Chicago Taskforce, ooffiihardwick, Salamishah Tillet, Third Wave and others. Third Wave said: Update on #HR3 @3Wave's blog: Now that "forcible rape" is gone, what next? http://ow.ly/3PQeY #DearJohn [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Smith Bill Update: Rape Redefinition Removed | Third Wave Foundation -- Topsy.com — February 3, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

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