Debbie Wasserman Schultz stands up for women!
The news over the H.R. 3, the so-called "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" has made me sick all day. If passed, this bill would make the Hyde Amendment (which currently prevents federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's health) permanent and further limit abortion access by making it harder for abortion to be covered by private insurance and also limiting the rape exception to "forcible rape." Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the first congresswoman to speak out on this issue.
Feminists are rallying behind their outrage that the bill would redefine rape in such limited terms. Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown writes:
Under this new bill, the only rape survivors who would be able to receive funding would be those who were able to prove that their rapes involved “force.” If your rapist drugged you, intoxicated you, or raped you while you were unconscious, you don’t get coverage. If your rapist used coercion, you don’t get coverage. If this is a case of statutory rape — that is, if you are a thirteen-year-old child, raped by someone outside of your family — you don’t get coverage. If you’re an incest survivor over the age of eighteen — if, say, years of abuse only culminated in a pregnancy after your nineteenth birthday — you just don’t get coverage. And if you live in a state that doesn’t distinguish “forcible rape” from “rape,” you might not qualify, meaning that no matter what the circumstances of your assault were, well, sorry: You might not get coverage.
But this, the part where we decide whose rapes matter and whose rapes don’t, and seek to pass into law a radical redefinition of rape that just so happens to erase the vast majority of rape survivors, is horrifying. Instead of maintaining that rape is always rape, that there’s no such thing as a “minor” or “excusable” rape, the GOP is putting forth a bill that says some rapes are so very minor and excusable as not to warrant consideration. Making this attitude law — any law, anywhere — sets a truly terrifying precedent. It’s unconscionable.
In her blog post, Doyle created a Twitter campaign using the hastag #DearJohn (referring to Speaker of the House John Boehner) to express outrage at the bill. But until this interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, we really hadn't heard anything from individual congress members and the silence was terrifying. She told Raw Story:
"It really is -- to suggest that there is some kind of rape that would be okay to force a woman to carry the resulting pregnancy to term, and abandon the principle that has been long held, an exception that has been settled for 30 years, is to me a violent act against women in and of itself."
Debbie Wasserman Schultz's interview sheds light on the other morally reprehensible thing about this bill — its incredibly misleading name that suggests that taxpayers are funding abortion when they're really not. Irin Carmon of Jezebel writes:
For context of what's immediately at stake here: In 2006, the most recent year we have numbers for, federal Medicaid only covered 85 abortions under the rape, incest, or risk to the mother's health or life exceptions. Low-income women seeking abortions are already ill-served by the federal government, though in some cases, less so by their states. Still, just as "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion" as a name creates the false impression that Uncle Sam is daily writing checks of your money, for baby-slaughter, facts aren't really the strong suit of the anti-choice right.
As much as I believe in the power of online organizing, I spent the morning feeling really defeated and pessimistic about this issue. Until, that is, I saw Debbie Wasserman Schultz's interview. The power of the far right is overwhelming and today I almost wanted to give up. But it gives me hope to know that there are women like Debbie Wasserman Schultz in congress fighting for healthcare and respect for women in this country. Thank you, Debbie, for re-energizing and reassuring me. We can fight this together. You rock.
How to take action:
Sign the MoveOn.org petition (then share it on Facebook and Twitter!)
Share this blog post.
**Update: The "forcible rape" wording has been removed from the bill. This is good news, but the remaining language still poses a grave threat to aboriton access.
How to cite this page
Berkenwald, Leah. "Debbie Wasserman Schultz stands up for women!." 1 February 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 13, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/debbie-wasserman-schultz-stands-up-for-women>.