Sisterhood Blog

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Takes On Bill That Would Redefine Rape

By Sarah Seltzer

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida.

I’ve spent the week reporting on the all-out assault against abortion access that’s happening state-by-state in America right now. It’s a scary scene, demonstrating how quickly many lawmakers will move against women’s bodily autonomy once they gain power.

But on the national level, the most headline-worthy move against women has been a new bill in Congress, H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” or as NARAL calls it, “Stupak on Steroids.” which would not only strip existing abortion funding, it would redefine “rape” as forcible, leaving most instances of sexual assault in a gray area when it comes to abortion funding. In other words, the government can essentially analyze your rape to determine whether it’s worthy of abortion funding. Irin Carmon at Jezebel has an excellent analysis of why this language, even if it was accidental in intention or not really meant to be codified into law, is dangerous just in its existence. Several bloggers have started a #DearJohn Twitter campaign to draw attention to the bill (the John in question being Speaker of the House Boehner).

To add insult to injury, anti-abortion activists are launching a secondary assault on Planned Parenthood’s funding, what Politico calls “an aggressive” campaign. Due to the Hyde Amendment, government funding to Planned Parenthood Federation for America never goes to abortion. So these groups are seeking to essentially cut off funding for health care that includes cancer screening and STD testing by using the abortion issue as a wedge.

I’ve been writing about the law encroaching on women’s bodies for The Sisterhood for many, many months, through the fight for health care reform and onwards. And this is the most genuinely frightened I’ve been. It’s the sense of assault from all sides that causes such a panic.

Fortunately for our blood pressure, not to mention our rapidly-shrinking rights, we do have some heroines left. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz spoke out loudly and forcefully against this bill, saying “I consider the proposal of this bill a violent act against women,” and adding that even though it won’t pass, it’s an example of the encroaching power of the radical right-wing agenda for women.

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses with Attitude really summed up my feelings. Like me, she felt that the Twitter hashtag campaign was going into the void, and Wasserman-Schultz helped give her hope. “Thank you, Debbie, for re-energizing and reassuring me. We can fight this together,” she wrote. I can only add to her words the hope that there are more Capitol Hill fighters on the right side of this issue than are immediately evident. I wonder why lawmakers on the left side don’t have the courage to turn this issue around to expose the backwards social agenda that lurks beneath the economic talking points of their opponents.


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