05/04/2011 02:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Leaving Women No Choice

The new Republican majority's agenda is pretty clear when you look at their list of legislation this Congress:

H.R. 1 -- decimate the programs that millions of middle-class families across the country depend on.

H.R. 2 -- repeal the landmark law that expands health care to millions of Americans and prevents big insurance companies from discriminating against people when they get sick.

And then, of course, there's H.R. 3, which would restrict women's rights to make their own health decisions and roll back the rights of women by decades.

These three bills read like a "to do" list for the Republican Party. And today, that third item is dangerously close to becoming a reality.

H.R. 3 is deceptively titled as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Yet it has nothing to do with federal funding of abortions -- an issue that was put to rest for years by language in the Hyde Amendment that prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortion procedures. But for some, that simply isn't enough. Since they continuously cannot muster the support to ban abortion outright, they instead attempt to make abortion care as difficult as possible. In this case, H.R. 3 attempts to manipulate the tax code to deny small businesses tax credits if they provide their employees with comprehensive health care, permanently bans abortion care for federal employees, and potentially subjects victims of rape and incest who have sought abortion care to IRS audits.

But the bill's name isn't the most deceptive or egregious part of it. H.R. 3 truly represents an unprecedented rollback of women's rights by sneaking in a backdoor provision to reintroduce language that redefines rape. You might have heard about it on The Daily Show. And indeed, it would be a laughable concept if it weren't so serious. Just earlier this year, facing a backlash from women and voters across the country, Republicans removed the ludicrous and now-infamous "forcible rape" language, which would have completely changed the definition of rape.

But while they removed that particular language, House Republicans have now reinserted a provision with the same intent into the bill's committee report - meaning the outcome will essentially be the same: Republicans are narrowing the definition of rape so they can restrict rape victims' ability to obtain an abortion. They're just trying to hide this deeper in the bill's 'fine print.'

Yet another troubling aspect of this bill is how it impacts women in the military. H.R. 3 would make current limitations on reproductive health care for women in the military permanent. When reports show that as many as one in three military women experience some form of sexual assault during their career in the service, we should be doing everything we can to address this crisis. Instead, House Republicans are compounding the problem by limiting military women's reproductive rights.

So while Republicans ran for office last November on the platform of creating jobs and turning our economy around, it seems their legislative priorities lie elsewhere. Just look at the agenda: cutting crucial programs and services, repealing health care, and now -- women's rights.

Women and voters everywhere who respect women's rights fought back earlier this year against these attempts, and we can do it again. It's a fight we've had before -- and sadly, a fight we'll probably have again. But it's also a fight we simply cannot afford to lose.


Watch my floor speech here: