Another No-Show In Our “National Conversation”

House Republicans plan to sidestep a charged debate over the distinction between “forcible rape” and “rape” by altering the language of a bill banning taxpayer subsidies for abortions.

For once, Politico gets it exactly right. Conservatives are sidestepping a debate on why they deliberately and carefully included language that redefines rape and adds very specific language regarding “minors” to anti-choice legislation. Minors aren’t mentioned at all in Hyde. Why’d they show up here?

This was a top priority in the new majority. After repealing health care reform legislation for all women and children, conservatives jumped all over the chance to introduce new restrictions on abortion.

I don’t think conservatives and their anti-choice activist allies should be given a pass and permitted to “sidestep” this debate. Let’s talk about why they tried to get this through, and their position on rape, minors and the health and welfare of women and girls, or, “pregnant females”. It must have been pretty damn important to rank right behind repealing health care reform.

What was this all about, and why the lying and dissembling and backtracking when it came to light?

Anti-choice activists were perfectly happy to hijack the entire national health care debate for weeks and level completely unsubstantiated charges about the proposed health care reform bill in the House. Democrats were forced to defend. The debate went on and on. I couldn’t read a newspaper or watch cable news without one or another anti-choice activist promoting their views. It was so vitally important that they be heard they threatened to shut the whole process down.

Now that they’re drafting legislation, and in a majority in the House they’re strangely silent and they’ll drop the language that was inserted to further The Cause in a hurry rather than defend it. Why is that?

44 replies
  1. 1
    Loneoak says:

    They should have called it “No Uterus Left Unused Act”.

    Or “All Your Uterus Are Belong To Us Act”.

  2. 2
    Violet says:

    Anti-choice? Isn’t it really ‘forced birth’? Because that’s what they’re advocating.

  3. 3
    WereBear says:

    @Violet: Yes, but “forced birth” is so Non-Lutz.

  4. 4
    TenguPhule says:

    Forced Birth Republican Rapists shrivel when exposed to the light of day.

  5. 5
    MGLoraine says:

    They’re not side-stepping. They got what they were after. Digby nailed this yesterday:

  6. 6
    Hurling Dervish says:

    It’s also a good chance to see what really drives the news shows. We’re always told it’s about ratings, not supporting the Republicans. This is a red-hot issue for ratings. Get the Republicans on and make them say why they supported it. And you’ll see the ratings meters surge to high.

    More likely, though, we’ll see stories about how Michelle doesn’t know bbq, and Obama lost Egypt. Just enough to keep people interested, but not TOO interested.

  7. 7
    Kay says:


    I’ll say. TPM had to basically chase them down the hall to get them to respond. Since when are they so shy and retiring? Jeez. Ordinarily, you can’t get a word in edgewise without violating their First Amendment rights.

    The Marketplace of Ideas shuts down when conservatives take power, apparently. Closed.

  8. 8
    TomG says:

    What cowardice. First of all, they should be proud of, and stand by, the original language that they wrote. Don’t they stand for important principles anymore? (/sarcasm)

    Secondly, haven’t we heard constantly that the majority of Americans disagrees with Roe vs. Wade and that the “pro-life” position is simply reflecting this? If that’s really the case, they ought to have more conviction than to fold like the cheap suits they are. Perhaps they have some remnants of shame left after all.

  9. 9
    piratedan says:

    for people who are apparently concerned about personal liberties and freedoms, they sure as hell don’t mind taking over control of a woman’s body when it comes to Schroedinger’s fetus. or is it that Republican women simply don’t put out which is why they have to ensure that there will be future generations of Americans for them to control?

  10. 10
    Tom Levenson says:

    Actually governing/legislating is hard. Our GOP friends are discovering that when they do stupid or vile sh*t as opposed to merely talking it, people notice, and their job tenure gets more tenuous.

    Expect both lots more of this kind of advance/retreat crap over the next couple of years — and be prepared for some really evil stuff to sneak through if we aren’t hyper careful. Eternal vigilance and all that.

  11. 11
    kay says:


    I was particularly interested in “minors” because minors really are different than adult women. Minors go to foster care. Minors have legal guardians. Minors have special restrictions on abortion that conservatives have put in place already. Minors get Medicaid through their parents or guardians. Minors don’t have agency. Their custodian (parent or guardian) does. Why are anti-choice activists inserting themselves in that?

    I’m curious about that.

  12. 12
    El Cid says:

    People need to watch this segment of last night’s Daily Show with Senior Women’s Correspondent Kristen Schaal on this exclusion of women’s access to any Medicare assistance for the medical procedure known as abortion outside “forcible” rape.

    I didn’t see exactly whose data sheet she held up, but assuming the correct statistics, the total number of such rape-abortions assisted by Medicare in a year is 191.

    This is a national issue for less than 200 cases a year.

    Or, it was, until apparently the GOP decided its work was correctly performed and now are happy to roll back the “forcible rape” language. Which will be defined as a retreat, but, as always, they used that language for the types of people who need to hear it — the Talibangelical forced birth movement. Signal loudly received.

    Jonathan Capehart via the Washington Post.

    My long wait for a definition of “forcible rape” ended last night with a 7:49 p.m. e-mail from Jeff Sagnip, press secretary to Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). “The term ‘forcible’ is going to be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment…,” he wrote. Translation: retreat.
    Congressional Republicans have been catching hell ever since word caught on that H.R. 3 — the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” — would narrow even further federal funding for the procedure by drawing a distinction between rape and “forcible rape” without actually defining what the latter is. And they deserved every minute of it.
    The bill will maintain the abortion-funding restrictions under the Hyde Amendment. This still isn’t a good piece of legislation, since it would bar folks from using their health savings accounts to pay for an abortion. It would also stop them from availing themselves of tax credits or deductions for medical expenses for an abortion. So, there’s still some work to do. But with the unforced “forcible” fight over, House Speaker John Boehner can get the House back on track to helping to solve the nation’s economic problems. After all, now that he and his party are in the majority, they have responsibility for answering Boehner’s daily question of President Obama for the last two years: where are the jobs?

    And hey, here‘s one of a number of mentions of Kristen Schaal’s bit:

    On last night’s The Daily Show, senior women’s issues correspondent Kristen Shaal [sic] appeared to talk about the GOP effort to redefine rape — for the purposes of federal health care law — as only “forcible rape.”
    She said “Congress is redefining rape to protect us from the worst kind of rape… Money rape.”
    Money rape, she said, is “Forcible taking of taxpayers’ money to pay for abortions. They have no say in the matter: they just have to lay back and take it while their bank accounts are violated over and over and over again.”
    Shaal explained: “You’d be surprised how many drugged, underage or mentally handicapped young women have been gaming the system. Sorry, ladies, the free abortion ride is over.”
    In response to questions from host Jon Stewart, Shaal explained the reasoning behind the bill with a reference to the rape committeed by Roman Polanski: “There’s rape, and there’s rape-rape. Ok? Plying a 13-year-old with Quaaludes, alcohol and a famous penis isn’t rape-rape, it’s just rape-esque and shouldn’t be covered.”
    Schaal said that, like many taxpayers, “I don’t think hard-earned tax dollars should go to women who were only rape-ished,” noting that the 191 abortions paid for under Medicaid in 2006 because the pregnancies were the result of rape or incest (or because the life or health of the mother were at risk) cost two-tenths of a penny per taxpayer.

  13. 13
    El Cid says:

    Oooo — my “comment awaiting moderation” is now in red with stars too!

  14. 14
    Violet says:

    Could it be because the previous versions mentioned “women” and they wanted to be sure that there was no way any female under the age of 18 could be considered left out of it?

    Minors don’t have agency

    Aren’t there some states where teenage girls can go to the court and petition, on their own, to get an abortion without having to notify their parents?

  15. 15
    Zifnab says:

    Democrats are making a huge mistake on this bill. Namely, they’re letting the legislation move quickly. Republicans want to jam politically-charged legislation down the throat of the House rapid fire. Today ACA, tomorrow abortion, next Monday taxes. Then they get to run home and tell their constituency all the things they tried to do, but those gosh darn Democrats wouldn’t let them.

    Slow this the fuck down. Why is the abortion language being rushed through the House so quickly? Where are the conferences? Where are the amendments? I want to see Pelosi’s crew come up with a thousand extra add-ons and poison-pills – tax increases to pay for enforcement, regional exceptions to let state legislatures side-step or opt out, financial aid for emergency rooms, tort reform, slide some earmarks in there and then throw a hissy fit, put in the language on the hated death panels.

    Drag the legislation to a crawl. Then let the Republicans whine long and loud about their pet project. Then bemoan job losses and economic sluggishness, and complain that the Republicans are too slow in addressing anything.

    Republicans handed you the perfect playbook with their antics in ’08. Use it.

  16. 16

    Republican strategery of the past 20 years has been most effective when in the minority. They are quickly exposed as the frauds they truly are when they control any part of the legislative and/or administrative process.


    Forced Birth Republican Rapists shrivel when exposed to the light of day.

    Things do shrivel a bit in all this cold winter air.

  17. 17
    El Cruzado says:

    Because the majority of the US population is pro-choice, even if many find the issue icky. Dog whistles and preaching to the choir work a lot worse when you’re supposedly in charge.

    SSATSQ (Somewhat Simple Answers to Simple Questions)

  18. 18
    JCT says:

    There was an article the other day about one of the 19 repubs the DSSC is targeting getting all hot and bothered about being “blamed” for unpopular budget cuts (of course he *had* been part of the study group that suggested them ). His whining was hilarious. Amazing what has happened to the so-called “Party of Responsibility”.

    It’s like chasing cockroaches with a flashlight, though — they scatter fast.

  19. 19
    kay says:


    Aren’t there some states where teenage girls can go to the court and petition, on their own, to get an abortion without having to notify their parents?

    Yeah. It’s called “judicial bypass” and it was inserted to allow for this situation: girl is somehow compromised by her custodial situation. She could be in foster care (where she’d be if she’s a victim or rape by a relative, hopefully, right?) or girl’s parents are in some other way unfit or unsuited to act in her best interests. It can be a hearing where the girl’s opinion on what she should do is just contra to what her parent(s) think, but that isn’t why it was inserted. It’s a safety provision, basically.

    The thing is, those girls don’t have any money. Hence, they’d be wholly dependent on the exceptions in abortion funding restrictions. I’m still not clear, reading that language, if the “forcible rape” provisions applied to those girls at all.

    This is enormously complicated, in the real world. It makes me see-red angry to see anti-choice activists treat it so cavalierly. It shows me how far down their list of priorities the most vulnerable girls are.

  20. 20
    Paul in KY says:

    @Zifnab: I like the way you think.

  21. 21
    Kay says:

    @El Cid:

    I freed it. I don’t know why it isn’t showing up.

  22. 22
    Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q) says:

    @kay: It’s not enough. The guardian/parent may make the wrong decision. The control must be greater (from the smaller government crowd, heh – small enough to drown in a dilated cervix)

    I suspect also there are two reasons for the quick retreat. One is the timing within an election cycle, and the other is a negotiating tactic. The fuckers.

  23. 23
    Violet says:

    Forced-birthers don’t care about vulnerable people, period. Any of them. Homeless? You’re not working hard enough. Pregnant? Should have kept your legs shut. Hungry? Go get a job. Etc., etc.

    It’s little surprise to me that they aren’t thinking this through. So it’s confusing, hard to interpret, and may leave vulnerable young women suffering. Stupid girls should have kept their legs shut and shouldn’t have been so stupid as to be born into those poor families anyway.

    At least that’s my take on it. They’re the very definition of anti-Christian. “”And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”

  24. 24
    Kay says:

    @Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q):

    and the other is a negotiating tactic.

    I see the negotiation angle, but I am of the opinion that liberals and Democrats give conservatives and Republicans way too much credit for strategic brilliance. I always go back to right before the 2006 election, when Karl Rove said what every hack says before they’re going to lose an election, which is “we’re going to WIN, because I have special math” He can’t say “get out there and vote because we are going to LOSE!”, so he lied. They all do it.

    Liberals and Democrats freaked out. He has an EVIL PLAN. He didn’t have shit.

  25. 25

    @Violet: Much like marxism, many of the tenets of christianity are much nicer in print than in practice (at least among the loudest ‘christians’).

  26. 26
    Mike in NC says:

    Some years back a Texas politician gained some notoriety for suggesting that if a woman was in a situation where she risked being raped, the best thing would be to “lie back and try to enjoy it” or words to that effect. No doubt he’s still around somewhere. Texas statehouse? US Congress?

  27. 27
    Allan says:

    Now that they’re drafting legislation, and in a majority in the House they’re strangely silent and they’ll drop the language that was inserted to further The Cause in a hurry rather than defend it. Why is that?

    Because even without the “forcible rape” BS, the law as drafted would prohibit you from being able to buy insurance that covers reproductive services if there’s any federal subsidies involved in paying for it.

    Rich white Republican women will still be able to get their uteri vacuumed on a monthly basis between their mani/pedis and their Pilates workouts. Everyone else? forced birth, bitches!

  28. 28
    PS says:

    I don’t know if the “forcible” language was a slick attempt to change things or a dumb choice — or a slick choice of dumb language, intended to distract any opposition from the actual intent of the legislation. Changing it was easy (as I predicted, btw) but there is still a big danger that the change of language will remain the distraction that lets the bill slide its ugly way forward. I completely agree that parliamentary tactics can and should be used to slow the thing down. And especially to focus on the big picture of defending women’s rights.

  29. 29
    Violet says:

    @Mike in NC:
    Clayton Williams. Ran for Governor of Texas in 1990 when he said that. He’s still around, but not in any government office.

  30. 30
    suzanne says:

    Now that they’re drafting legislation, and in a majority in the House they’re strangely silent and they’ll drop the language that was inserted to further The Cause in a hurry rather than defend it. Why is that?

    Probably because they weren’t counting on the shitstorm they started, and they don’t have the courage of their (misplaced) convictions to follow through.

    These people might be even more selfish than they are hateful, and that’s saying something.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    daveX99 says:


    “Schroedinger’s fetus” — that’s awesome.

  33. 33
    Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q) says:

    @daveX99: Indeed it is awesome, but shouldn’t it be “Schroedinger’s baby” since those control freaks insist it’s a “baby” from conception forward? Though it seems to lose its value as life once it crosses the cervical rubicon, based on how interested they seem to be in aid to the “born”.

  34. 34
    Jinx says:


    Also, the right of minors to petition the court for an abortion just isn’t that helpful when the rubber hits the road.

    The window of time for a woman to receive an abortion is 3 months. Ponder the wherewithall needed to get an abortion by adult women with the means to pay. Factor in that services are not available in approximately 85% of counties and that many of the clinics that do exist are the target of hate filled protests. Now add on top of that a requirement to get permission from the court. Viewed through this lens, this right begins to look a lot more like just another hurdle.

    The level of sophistication required of a minor to seek this type of redress is so high as to make the remedy meaningless. It’s a right that’s almost impossible to exercise.

  35. 35
    daveX99 says:

    @Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q):

    You are already altering the experiment!

    I like ‘cervical rubicon’ as well.

  36. 36
    Paul in KY says:

    @Mike in NC: That was uber dickhead coach Bobby Knight, who was at Texas Tech when he opined on that (I believe).

    Edit: I see that was Clayton Williams. Mr. Knight also got flak for the same BS comment.

  37. 37
    Julie says:

    I agree with Digby’s take, the point was to distract from all the new restrictions on private insurance coverage for abortion. For instance, it will stop people from deducting their private insurance premiums on their income tax returns if the plan covers abortion.

  38. 38
    burnspbesq says:


    The House rules are very different than the Senate rules. Even if it is a 218=217 majority, the majority party in the House can do pretty much whatever it wants.

  39. 39
    burnspbesq says:


    The Marketplace of Ideas shuts down when conservatives take power, apparently. Closed.

    When there is no supply, the law of supply and demand is inapplicable. The Republicans are theologically opposed to the very idea of ideas.

  40. 40
    Silver Owl says:

    It’s a shame conservatives do not have the balls to go after the men and their penises. It is mens dicks they really have a problem with. It’s the dicks, in their minds, that taint and make women filthy, dirty and turn them into whores.

    Conservatives get so bitchy and nasty with women only because abusing women is so easy in our society and in their “religion”. Challenging men directly and going after them in the same abusive manner as they do women would likely get them killed and likely destroy their movement.

  41. 41
    Shalimar says:

    @Violet: There are, but I have always wondered how often it actually happens in the real world. Having worked before as a mediator in small claims court, I have seen first hand how reluctant most people are to get involved with the court system at all. If a minor girl is afraid to tell her parents about her pregnancy and is from a poor family, what are the odds that someone she does tell is even going to know she can go to court and also that she is going to have the courage to talk with a stranger about her options even if she does know?

    It just doesn’t seem like it would happen very often at all, which I suspect was the point in the first place. Seem like you’re providing an alternative, but make it so that the hoops are too difficult for most people to jump through. So much of the anti-abortion legislation is about taking away options without appearing to close all of them down.

  42. 42
    rikyrah says:

    Now that they’re drafting legislation, and in a majority in the House they’re strangely silent and they’ll drop the language that was inserted to further The Cause in a hurry rather than defend it. Why is that?

    Because they are bullies who can only accomplish things in the dark of night. When they have to sit up and tell a woman that there are ‘ varying degrees of rape’- they know that shyt doesn’t pass the smell test, and just watching these misogynists on tv try to ‘explain’ themselves – they know it can’t be done -…not for anyone outside of their circle of rabid anti-female misogynist right-wingers.

  43. 43
    piratedan says:

    @daveX99: Thanks Dave and while I can concede Bella has a point, I chose fetus because the folks who are in the “forced birth” camp keep the arguement that a fetus is a person despite the fact that it could be an “anchor baby” or not have a social security number yet or developed any number of organs or senses that comprise a person. These guys don’t care about how the pregnancy occurred they just want control it and as such, I felt that couching the statement using a scientific reference was the way to go. Also liked Bella’s “cervical rubicon” reference.

  44. 44
    HumboldtBlue says:

    Stop referring to these shitbags as “anti-choice” call them what they are, violently anti-abortion.

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