No Means No, and Rape Means Rape

Texas has the Legislative Council, an office responsible for drafting bills for our legislators so that the bills represent the intent of the sponsor without creating mass chaos or violating the constitution.

Most of the mistakes legislators make that the Lege Council clears up are unintentional. Sloppy word choice, no awareness about a parallel code that overlaps with the one referenced in the bill,that sort of thing.

Congressional anti-choice Republicans, and no doubt some anti-choice Democrats at this point, could use the help of someone from our Lege Council, because they have introduced a horrible bill that attempts to differentiate between “rape” and “forcible rape” when it comes to Medicaid funds used to pay for abortion in cases of rape or incest.

[By the way, if you are opposed to using government funds for abortion, think how all of us feel who are opposed to using government funds to pay for things we personally oppose, like unfettered defense spending or the TSA’s pat-down regimen. By which I mean to say tough shit, your money pays for things you don’t like and you have to suck it up. I should also add that it is already so difficult to access either Medicaid funds for abortions or, often, providers to perform the service, that these funds are tapped incredibly rarely. If only we could say that about corn subsidies … ]

I doubt, however, that using this term was unintentional. Mother Jones explains it best:

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape.” This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith’s spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)

Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old’s parents wouldn’t be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn’t be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.

What are the ramifications here?Back to MoJo for what it means for determine when rape is really rape:

“This bill takes us back to a time when just saying ‘no’ wasn’t enough to qualify as rape,” says Steph Sterling, a lawyer and senior adviser to the National Women’s Law Center. Laurie Levenson, a former assistant US attorney and expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, notes that the new bill’s authors are “using language that’s not particularly clear, and some people are going to lose protection.” Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes. “There are a lot of aspects of rape that are not included,” Levenson says.

I’m curious about the tax issues, which are by no means as violently offensive to me as changing the definition of rape, but which could be very troubling for the precedent they might create.

If the government can say that you cannot use your tax-exempt Health Savings Account to pay for an abortion, can they say that you cannot use your tax-exempt HSA for non-abortion services at a clinic which provides abortions? Like paying for your annual exam at Planned Parenthood?

Could the government revoke tax-exempt status from nonprofit agencies that provide abortion services, but leave that status in place for anti-choice crisis centers that pretend to be medical facilities?

Since the mid-term elections, the drum beat from women’s rights groups has been building. Anti-choice forces have backed off of trying to overturn Roe v. Wade outright, realizing they can just regulate the right out of existence. This is just one more giant stride down that dangerous path. We must be vigilant.

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