Last month, the GOP house majority presented the “No Taxpayer for Abortion Act,” a bill that would ban government funding for abortions, even in situations of statutory rape, incest, and consent-less sex. Many critics, media outlets, and citizens refer to the bill as the “Redefining Rape Act,” among other things. Due to pervasive criticism, the GOP has decided to remove the section of the bill that requires “rape” to be defined by physical force. Regardless, I think it is incredibly important to analyze just what this bill implied and what it means for the future of women’s rights in this country.
First, the bill specifically stated that a woman could only circumvent the ban on abortion funding if she experienced “forcible rape.” This force, additionally, would have to be physical. To understand the monumental effect of this statement, it might be helpful to consider a few scenarios. Suppose a 14-year-old girl has just finished eighth grade and is getting ready to start high school. She has a relationship with a 20-something year old man, possibly even just for one night. When she says, “no,” he doesn’t beat her up or physically force her to have sex with him. He simply peer pressures her, gives her plenty of alcohol, and then conveniently doesn’t hear her when she asks him to stop. The girl is traumatized and a few months later she finds out she is pregnant. But the man didn’t break any of her bones or leave bruises on her body, so it’s not rape. He violated her emotionally and physically, destroyed her self-image, and impregnated her with a lifetime of regret.
But it’s not rape, right? What if the girl was the legal age of consent (18), but that man was her brother? What if the girl was 18 but had a disability, leaving her with the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. Is it rape?
Speaker of the House John Boehner says no. According to him, none of the above situations are legitimate rape and none of the women in those situations should be allowed to have an abortion. This is not a political issue.
It’s not a religious issue, or even an intellectual issue. This is an issue that cuts to the very core of our human conscience. The fact that men like John Boehner could think they have any ability to understand the trauma a woman experiences in any situation of rape or the inherent helplessness a woman feels when her control over her body is seized and destroyed by the government in a shameless attempt to restrict women of their right to choice, is despicable.
At USF, this issue may be especially controversial considering our institution’s emphasis on human rights and social justice, as well as the Catholic Church’s mandate against abortion. At a crossroads like this, where moral obligation and religious doctrine differ so directly, I urge all members of the USF community to acknowledge the necessity for social reform regarding women’s sexual rights and reject the notion that a potential fetus is somehow more valuable than the livelihood of a rape victim.
Laura Waldron is a sophomore politics major.
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