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It is time to propose practical changes that would actually cut public expenditures, protect rape victims and make the anti-women animus that motivates these proposals visible for all to see.

Written by June Carbone for RHRealityCheck.org - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice. This article is cross-posted.

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You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

This post was originally published at New Deal 2.0, a project of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.

The Republican leadership is at it again.  House Republicans rode  into office on claims that President Obama and the Democratic Congress  were promoting a “liberal” agenda rather than focusing on the real task  at hand — job creation.  Yet the first act of the new Republican House  was a symbolic repeal of health care followed by a focus on the true  conservative passion: regulating the sex lives of the most vulnerable  and politically powerless women.  The latest proposal, which would limit benefits for rape victims unless they could show that the rape was “forcible,” reintroduces a  distinction that women fought for decades to eliminate — the notion that  “real rape” can only occur when a stranger jumps out of the bushes and  holds a woman at gunpoint.  Otherwise, the woman must necessarily be  complicit in the resulting pregnancy and should be forced to bear the  child.

Anyone who seriously cares about women’s lives will oppose the  measure.  Merely trying to defeat it, however, is not enough.  It  continues the practice of letting the far right define the reproductive  debate while those who champion reproductive justice play defense.  It  is time to turn the tables and propose practical changes that would  actually cut public expenditures, protect rape victims and make the  anti-women animus that motivates these proposals visible for all to see.

Wisconsin offers an inspiring example.  It joined sixteen other states and the District of Columbia in signing a “Compassionate Care for Rape Victims” act into law in 2008.  (For other states, see here.)   The law, passed with significant support from pro-life legislators,  requires that emergency rooms provide rape victims with information  about and access to emergency contraception.  The contraception, better  known as “the morning after pill,” involves administering a high dose of  progestin, the active ingredient in the birth control pill.  The  hormone prevents or delays ovulation but cannot dislodge an existing  pregnancy.  The treatment is relatively inexpensive, effective up to 72  hours after intercourse, and part of the ordinary standard of care for  emergency room treatment. Yet a 2006 study indicated that 66% of Wisconsin emergency rooms failed to mention it to patients seeking assistance after a rape.

It took an impressive coalition of legislators, rape victims, and  reproductive justice advocates to pass the bill.  The victims testified  movingly — and courageously — about their experiences.  Doctrinaire  conservatives, not unlike the Congressional Republicans urging the  current restrictions, used intemperate language that referred to the  “alleged” victims and questioned whether the rapes were “real.”  Their  callousness in the face of women testifying to terrifying experiences  exposed the extremism of the opposition, which objects not just to  abortion, but to contraception.  The heartlessness embarrassed and split  pro-life ranks and led to the passage of a measure that provided a real  service to rape victims and reduced both abortions and government  spending.  Most importantly, it spared already traumatized women an  unnecessary pregnancy or later abortion.

Women’s groups can gain ground only if we change the terms of the  debate.  We need to make compassion for victims the issue, not some  abstract debate about whether rape is real.  The only way to do so is to  find a way to get what should be consensus proposals a hearing —  proposals that take the trauma of rape seriously, make the real problem  visible, offer workable solutions and expose the pro-life posturing in  Congress for what it is: an ideological crusade that succeeds only so  long as true victims remain invisible.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to RH Reality Check on Tue Feb 01, 2011 at 08:40 AM PST.

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