To avoid an awkward House floor debate on redefining rape, Republicans have quietly removed the phrase "forcible rape" from their abortion fund-restricting bill. Not before The Daily Show mocked them, though! Alas, this doesn't change the remaining bill's essential terribleness.
Politico reports that the outcry from women's rights groups — and their supporters, presumably — led Republicans to back away from the phrase "forcible rape" in HR3, also known as the "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.
"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. One senior GOP aide told Huddle it's a no-brainer to get rid of the modifier. "Such a removal would be a good idea, since last I checked, rape by definition is non-consensual," the aide said.
Score one for the noise made by advocates in the past week — really, the only loss here is to The Daily Show, which was robbed of that golden footage of Republicans debating rape's finer points. Still, Kristen Schaal did just fine. (Her bit was along similar lines to Samantha Bee's classic takedown of John McCain on abortion restrictions.)
While it's great that House Republicans have been forced to back away from whatever they were trying to do with the "forcible rape" language, the "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortions" bill still presents a significant risk to reproductive justice — not just for the small number of women who are on Medicaid and who qualify under the very limited exceptions, but for its potential effects on anyone with private insurance.
As Steph Sterling, Director of Government Relations at the National Women's Law Center writes,
The bill would also impose tax penalties on individuals and small businesses with insurance plans that include abortion....If your insurance plan covers abortion – even if you never knew it, and even if you never used it – you could face a tax penalty. Depending on what kinds of tax benefits you're eligible for, it could be substantial.
...Right now, a woman who makes $25,000 is eligible to deduct any amount over $1,875 she spends on health expenses, including her insurance premiums, from her taxable income. If H.R. 3 were enacted and her health insurance plan includes coverage of abortion, she would lose a $1,731 deduction. More than 7.5 million families claim this particular medical expense deductions-and each of them would lose the deduction if their plan covers abortion.
The concern is that the natural market reaction of insurance providers would be to stop covering abortion altogether, making it even harder for women to access the care they need.
Breaking: Forcible Rape Provision To Change [Politico]
An Abortion Overreach That Could Raise Your Taxes [NWLC]
Earlier: The Truth About "Redefining Rape"
House Republicans' New Definition Of Rape-Rape
House Republicans Frantically Race To Restrict Abortion