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Anti-Abortion Lawmakers Back Off Crazy Rape Redefinition, Find New Way To Marginalize Women

First Posted: 02/04/11 03:31 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:30 PM ET

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Last week, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," was drawing criticism from all quarters because of the insane way that the language of the law sought to redefine the idea of rape, so that as many rape survivors as possible could be denied the right to a safe and legal abortion. The law would put women who had been drugged or incapacitated or coerced or date raped into a "no deal" category, along with children who had been statutory raped by anyone other than a blood relation. Into the "deal" category were minors who were the victims of incest (but not adults) and anyone deemed to have been raped "forcibly," with the term "forcibly" being open to interpretation.

People thought this was insane, because it was. So now, the lawmakers who dreamed up this dystopian mess are relenting. Per Politico:

House Republicans plan to sidestep a potentially contentious fight over the definition of rape by altering the language of a bill banning taxpayer subsidies for abortion, GOP aides tell Huddle. As written, the bill provides an exemption from the abortion ban "if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape," as well as in the case of incest involving a minor or the endangerment of the mother. The inclusion of the modifier "forcible" set off a firestorm among women's rights groups. "The phrase forcible rape was abandoned some time ago, and there is some indication that what they would be trying to do is make women jump over an additional hurdle if they want to get an abortion," Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) told POLITICO this week. Some worry that the term would exclude some forms of rape, including statutory rape that isn't accompanied by violence. "The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment," Jeff Sagnip, spokesman for bill sponsor Chris Smith (R-N.J.), said.

My favorite part of this news comes courtesy of an unnamed "senior GOP aide":

"Such a removal would be a good idea, since last I checked, rape by definition is non-consensual," the aide said.

Ha, ha! Shucks, y'all! We have no idea how it happened that this crazy new language was meticulously crafted and put into the bill, replacing the language that could have simply been cut and pasted from the Hyde Amendment!

Of course, the reason that language was put into the bill was to draw fire away from the bill itself. As TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports, "Pro-choice members of Congress took a look at the revised language of the bill and told TPM they still hate it." Yes, but they will be told: "Come on, guys, we met you halfway by taking out all of the rape stuff! SPIRIT OF COMPROMISE!" (Elsewhere, the mission to redefine rape continues.)

But while this language has been stricken from this piece of legislation, anti-abortion lawmakers have opened up a new front in the battle to turn women into brood-mares:

Sometimes there really aren't words for what passes as "pro-life" in the United States. The "Protect Life Act" overrides the requirement that ER doctors treat every patient and do what's necessary to save the patient's life, regardless of the patient's identity or ability to pay -- the Act allows doctors to refuse necessary care to a pregnant woman if that care will kill the fetus.

In other words, it gives doctors the green light to let pregnant women die if they have a life-threatening condition and need an emergency abortion. We know that women's lives have been saved by abortion (and that some number of people don't approve of the whole life-saving thing). It's not surprising that a few religious blow-hards think it's better for women to die instead of receiving therapeutic abortions, but to encode the view that you don't have to save a pregnant woman's life into federal law? That is truly sick -- and shockingly cruel, even for the usual "pro-life" suspects who regularly use their ideology as a tool to punish women.

(Remember that time I told you that you should be worried by the fact that people like "Bill O'Reilly, anti-abortion warrior, has apparently never heard of an ectopic pregnancy or pre-eclampsia.")

As a husband, I can tell you that my reaction to being told that doctors had to stop short of saving my wife's life because of a law of this kind would be something in the order of "unleashing a relentless and eternal pummeling hell on everyone responsible," and I would daresay the majority of people would react in a similar matter. That's why this latest outrage is probably akin to the one that proceeded it: it's a super-extreme bit of nonsense designed to draw fire away from the regular extreme nonsense.

And, again, this sort of thing is entirely animated by the fact that some lawmakers have a deep and abiding belief that women are chattel.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not? Also, please send tips to tv@huffingtonpost.com -- learn more about our media monitoring project here.]

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